TOWN OF THOMPSON, NY—In response to the news on Monday that asecond prospective casino developer had decided not to pursue acasino license in Sullivan County because of difficulty securingfinancing due to competing proposals to the south in Orange County,Mitchell Grossinger Etess, CEO of theMohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, says his firmwill remain in the fight for its casino project in SullivanCounty.

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, owner of theMohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, CT, ispartnering with Westchester County developer LouisCappelli of Concord Associates, to buildthe $500-million Mohegan Sun at the Concord casinoresort on 116 acres of property at the former Concord Hotel in thetown of Thompson in Sullivan County.

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“We are proceeding on completing our application. We believestrongly in the Catskills,” Etess tells Globest.com's John Jordanin response to Foxwood and Muss Development's announcement on Monday that they would not file an applicationby the mandated June 30th deadline for a New York State casinolicense with the New York State Gaming Facility LocationBoard for their planned casino project at the formerGrossingers hotel in Liberty.

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“At the end of the day our theory is we really strongly are ofthe opinion that gaming belongs in Sullivan County and we are goingto continue to make our case for that,” Etess says. “We think it isan overall economic benefit for New York, it was an upstatedevelopment bill, and we feel that what is overall best for NewYork is for the casinos to be in the Catskills and not in OrangeCounty.”

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Etess stressed that the Mohegan Sun-Concord partnership willcomplete the necessary financial information as required by thestate Gaming Commission on its gaming license application.

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However, he notes, “The reality is that if there is a casino inOrange County, there will not be a casino in Sullivan County thatwill be able to provide any sort of economic engine for that countythat will help stimulate the economy, which really was the goalhere. And so we can't really keep making that point and pull out ofthe process.

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“A casino in Orange County will cannibalize Yonkers (existingEmpire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway), which is a very highproducer for the state," he adds. "It is already impeding theAlbany sector and it is going to have a significant impact onSullivan County."

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He charges that secondary benefits from casino development inSullivan, such as new hotel and home construction to support thecasino, will be far greater there than in Orange County where thereis far more existing hotel and housing development. “We are goingto continue to make that case and you can't do that and pull out ofthe process."

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Meanwhile, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says inresponse to the Foxwoods-Muss pullout, “Part of the state GamingCommission's Request for Applications process is demonstratinglocal support, and Orange County's municipalities have met thistest repeatedly. In addition to our working with local officialsand meeting with gaming companies interested in locating here,neighboring counties such as Rockland and Dutchess have expressedto us their support for gaming in Orange County. Casinos in OrangeCounty can produce the most revenue and create the most jobs—thevery purpose of the gaming law. Our unified message has establishedOrange County as a major contender for casino development and Ilook forward to working together with interested parties as wecontinue through the application and approval process.”

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Adds New York State Senator John Bonacic, whochairs the Senate's Committee on Racing, Wagering and Gaming, "Itis a shame that Foxwoods has been forced to pull out of the biddingprocess to build a resort casino in Sullivan County, only becausethey could not receive adequate financing with the prospect of acasino development project in Orange County. My intent behind thecasino legislation was to locate resort destination casinos inareas which are distressed with high unemployment and low medianincome."

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He continues, "The Catskill Region is in dire need of thiseconomic development boost, and I am hopeful that despite thesudden interest in Orange County, the Catskill region will remain amodel for, and the focus of, where resort casinos are intended togo."

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John Jordan

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