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What you need to know for 01/18/2017

Casino bidders get seat at table

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Casino bidders get seat at table

Clairvest has its money on Montgomery County.
Casino bidders get seat at table
The developers of a proposed $300 million casino, resort and water park in Albany near I-87 are among those who put up a $1 million fee on Wednesday.

Clairvest has its money on Montgomery County.

The Toronto-based private equity management firm and casino operator was among a list of 21 companies that submitted the requisite $1 million fee required to apply for one of four state gaming licenses being offered in three regions of New York. Listed with the state Gaming Commission as Florida Acquisition Corp by Clairvest, the company is proposing to build a casino near the Thruway on a swath of vacant land straddling the town of Florida’s border with the city of Amsterdam.

“This is the one,” said Peter Marcil of Bentley Associates, the New York-city based investment banker working with Clairvest on the proposal. “We’re very excited about the project, and we think it’s got a really great upside.”

Clairvest joined Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Howes Caves Development LLC among the named operators focusing their attention on landing the gaming license destined for the Capital Region. Another yet-to-be named company submitted the fee for Capital Gaming LLC, a limited liability company hoping to develop a casino near Thruway Exit 23 in Albany.

The project headed by Rochester developer David Flaum and Capital District OTB hasn’t disclosed its operator yet. Spokesman Patrick McCarthy said another similarly named company that also paid the fee — Capital Region Gaming LLC — isn’t affiliated with Flaum’s group.

“We knew that [Wednesday] was going to be the official starting point,” McCarthy said. “Now we’re in a sprint to the finish.”

The passing of the deadline to pay the fee has pared the number of players that can apply for licenses to 21. Yet there was no provision for companies to commit to any specific site or even region when making the wire transfer before midnight Thursday.

The fee buys prospective operators a table at the gaming commission’s mandatory conference of applicants in Albany on Wednesday. Applications are due on June 30, with the gaming facility location board expected to select operators sometime this fall.

In total, prospective casino operators paid $22 million to the gaming commission by Thursday’s midnight deadline. Saratoga Casino and Raceway submitted two $1 million fees for separate applications they intend to submit in the Rensselaer County town of East Greenbush and the Orange County town of Newburgh. James Featherstonhaugh, a minority owner of the racino, said his company paid the fee twice “in an excess of caution” in case the leadership roster in the separate proposals are different enough to require two background checks.

Clairvest, a company with gaming licenses in Indiana and Illinois, invested in the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey in 2012. Marcil, a native of Amsterdam, was very familiar with the site in Montgomery County and made it an easy sell to the company.

“There’s a lot of compelling aspects to that site in our view,” he said.

Some companies haven’t disclosed the sites they are courting, leaving a bit of mystery shrouding the process. CRCR Enterprises, a limited liability company with an Albany address, represents a joint venture between the Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming Inc., which is rumored to be seeking a site somewhere in the eight-county area. PNK Development 33, a limited liability company headed by Pinnacle Entertainment, also submitted the fee and has scouted sites in the Capital Region, including in Rensselaer County.

Rolling Hills Entertainment LLC lists an Albany mailing address, but has no specific site attached to its name. Hudson Valley Gaming and NYS Funding LLC by Och-Ziff Real Estate also haven’t attached to a specific location.

At least one of the companies is actively pursuing a site being marketed by the Galesi Group, the developer proposing a massive redevelopment of the long-dormant American Locomotive property in Schenectady. David Buicko, Galesi’s chief operating officer, said his company is still very much in the mix to land a casino.

“I’m confident the operators we’re talking to have submitted the application fee,” he said.

Another prospective site without an announced operator is de Laet’s Landing, a 24-acre U.W. Marx project on the Hudson River in the city of Rensselaer. The site joins East Greenbush and Clairvest’s proposal in Montgomery County as the only three in the Capital Region with the requisite resolution of support from the host municipality.

Peter Marx, the company’s president, did not return a call for comment Thursday.

The $1 million fee will fund background investigations conducted by the state police starting sometime in mid-May. Companies could ultimately pay more than the fee, depending on the complexity of their operations.

The fee is refundable until five days after the commission’s gaming facility location board releases a figure for the minimum capital investment — something scheduled to occur within 10 days of a mandatory applicants conference in Albany on Wednesday.

Many companies are viewing the minimum capital investment disclosure as the point of commitment. With this figure still unknown, it’s difficult for operators to gauge the viability of sites.

“I do not believe any bidder has completely made up their mind on what they’re going to do,” Featherstonhaugh said.

Marcil agreed. He said the key figure Clairvest is awaiting is the minimum capital needed to secure a license.

“That’s the main milestone,” he said. “That’s the main issue.”

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