LIBERTY, NY—The significant investment interest in Orange Countyfor a possible casino in the Catskill-Hudson Valley region hascaused another casino project to the north to pull out of therunning for a state casino license.

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Foxwoods and partner MussDevelopment have announced they will not file a bid by theJune 30th deadline with the New York State Gaming FacilityLocation Board for its proposed Foxwoods CatskillsResort Casino, to be developed at the formerGrossingers hotel resort in Liberty.

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With that deadline looming, the field is now down to twoproposals in Sullivan County—both in the town of Thompson ondifferent pieces of property that once housed the storiedConcord Hotel resort—and one in Ulster Countyat the former Nevele resort, in the town ofWawarsing. Meanwhile, there are still six possible projectproposals based in Orange County.

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In a two-page advertisement in today's Middletown TimesHerald Record, Foxwoods and Muss released a joint statementexplaining their decision to pull out of the running for a casinogaming license in New York State.

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“Unfortunately, the mere prospect of a casino in Orange Countyhas made securing the required financing from the banks and otherequity partners impossible," according to the partners. "We alwaysapproached this project by assuming that there would be two casinosin the Catskills, but what we didn't plan for, and cannot competewith, is a casino project in Orange County. Such a location wouldsiphon off the business and guests we projected would come toGrossingers.”

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Despite the New York State Gaming Commission'sattempt to level the playing field by instituting lower licensingfees for Sullivan and Ulster county casinos if a project in OrangeCounty were approved for a gaming license, those measures were notenough to spur needed capital investment in their Sullivan Countyventure, the Foxwoods Catskills Resort Casino partners charge.

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“To its credit, the NYS Gaming Commission developed differentlicensing fees and minimal capital investments for differentlocations; allowed for a binding alternative if a casino were to bebuilt in Orange County; and made it clear that speed tocompletion was important and that SEQRA (State EnvironmentalQuality Review Act) would impact a project's selection,"
the partners state. "Unfortunately, this did not provide a level ofcomfort necessary to potential financing partners. As such, ourfinancing challenges have proven to be too great, and we will notbe submitting a bid on a project that we cannot complete and willbe suspending our efforts at this time.”

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“The whole town is very disappointed by this,” Barbuti saysLiberty town supervisor Charlie Barbuti. Hecharges that clarifications earlier this year made by the New YorkState Gaming Facility Location Board eventually made Orange Countymore attractive than counties to the north to investors.

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“There is no question in my mind that this is the best site. Itis next to the highway. We have the poverty numbers, we have thesupport numbers; everything that was in the legislation for thecriteria for selection, we check off every box,” Barbuti says. “Andit is just a shame that we didn't get to the selection committee tomake its decision. The decision was made by the marketplace.”

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He added that all of the projects in the Catskills (Sullivan andUlster) are either fully approved or nearing completion onapprovals, while all of the Orange County projects are justentering the approval process.

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A spokesman for the New York State Gaming Facility LocationBoard released a statement on the siting process, “The GamingFacility Location Board will closely review all the applicationsaccording to a comprehensive evaluation criteria to ensure thegreatest benefit. As clearly indicated in the Request forApplications, regional employment benefit, integration into aregional economic development plan and more are all factors in theevaluation criteria. Additionally, the Request for Applications'evaluation criteria include statutory values of 70% for economicactivity and business development factors, 20% for local impact andsiting factors and 10% for workforce enhancement factors.”

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At press time, the Foxwoods-Muss team had not filed a requestseeking a refund of its $1-million casino application fee,according to a Gaming Facility Location Board spokesman.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.