MONTICELLO, NY-While a $600-million casino project at Monticello Raceway is on the shelf for a while, a new $700-million venture to be built at the long shuttered Concord Hotel property less than three miles down the road is now in the works. Empire Resorts Inc., the owner of the Monticello Raceway property and Concord Associates LP, a partnership of developers Louis R. Cappelli and Scott Rechler, have reached an agreement to move the current video gaming machines facility or “racino” as well as the harness racing track to a 160-acre site on the grounds of the Concord Hotel approximately two-and-a-half miles away in Kiamesha Lake. Concord Associates, which owns 8.5% of Empire Resorts, is the owner of the famed Concord Hotel property.

Cappelli says that he is hoping to break ground on the 1.5-million-sf project by the middle to end of this summer. The plan, as proposed, would feature a 100,000-sf gaming facility that would house approximately 1,500 video gaming machines, a convention center, a hotel, golf, retail stores, restaurants and family entertainment uses. The gaming facility would be built inside what is currently projected to be a 500-room hotel, although Empire-Concord could build as many as 1,500 rooms. Also planned is a new five-eighths of a mile harness track that will be constructed near the gaming/hotel facility. Once that facility is complete, the existing one-half mile, 4,500-seat track in Monticello will be torn down. David Hanlon, CEO of Empire Resorts, says the existing track currently attracts a few hundred spectators per day. The new track would have seating for several hundred patrons and would have simulcasting capabilities, he notes. Cappelli says that hotel guests will most likely also be able to view racing from a connecting sky bridge.

Concord Associates has received most of the approvals already for the venture with the exception of zoning and New York State regulatory approval to move the racetrack to the Concord site. Cappelli says that the Empire-Concord partnership will be looking to receive assistance from New York State since it will be bringing new development and jobs to an economically depressed area of the state. He did not specify the type or amount of funding the partnership is seeking from New York State and other governmental agencies.

Hanlon says “this is a win across the board for Empire’s shareholders and Sullivan County’s residents. The local economy will get the boost it needs in terms of jobs and this project is expected to enhance the value of the company for our shareholders, who will finally be rewarded for their patience in waiting for the day when we can build a world-class resort and gaming complex in the Catskills.”

Cappelli says the venture will create approximately 3,000 construction jobs and will double the state’s current take from VGM operations that currently exist at Monticello Raceway to $70 million a year. He adds that the project will “bring the former Concord Hotel, back to its glory as one of the region’s truly great convention, destination and resort hotels.” Cappelli, who has undertaken a host of successful high-profile projects in White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers, has encountered some criticism in Sullivan County for failing to begin the resort project at the Concord. In fact, his firm held a ground-breaking ceremony in 2000 for the venture, but with the exception of some site and infrastructure work, has yet to begin construction in earnest on any development there. Now, in partnership with Empire Resorts, Cappelli believes that the project will begin later this year and open by 2010.

Empire Resorts Hanlon adds that his firm is still interested in building a Native American casino on a 29-acre site adjacent to Monticello Raceway in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. When news leaked of a potential deal between Concord Associates and Empire Resorts, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe stated it believed such a move would be a breach of contract. Hanlon says that he is hoping to hold discussions with the tribe soon to make its position clear on the issue and that it remains supportive of the tribe’s intention to seek to overturn a decision rendered last month by the Secretary of Interior denying its land-into-trust application.

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