Resorts ups Catskills
June 19, 2018 3:01 AM
by Mark Mayer
It pains me to say you have to go way back to the Borscht Belt days of the 1960’s when the Catskills were roaring. Jerry Lewis was playing Brown’s. My cousin was a bus boy at the Nevele. Grossingers, Kutsher’s and the Concord were the preferred hotels and major golf spots.
Gambling, if legal in New York, would have put Atlantic City to shame. Now 50 years later Sullivan County, population close to 80,000 and 103 miles from Manhattan, is on its way back. None of the hotels from the 60s exist, but Monticello Raceway has some kick in its step and new monoliths like Resorts World Catskills are in the forefront of becoming a major destination spot, especially with sports betting now legal outside Nevada.
Delaware jumped on the opportunity right away with Gov. John Carney making the first bet – a conservative $10 winning wager on the Philadelphia Phillies. And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on the law last week. Now New York waits and the pressure to approve rises as those neighboring states begin to profit.
“People look to this project as the beginning,” said Ryan Eller, CEO of Resorts World Catskills. “We have made a $920 million investment and it’s good for this area. It’s the beginning of things to come. We are a Las Vegas style casino offering an experience that the City hasn’t had a chance to experience.”
Resorts World Catskills is four months old, having opened back on Feb. 8. By New York State accounts, things started slowly not only there but in the three other upstate casinos. According to state records, Resorts World Catskills averaged a net win per day of “a mere $102 per slot machine.”
Net win per day is the industry standard that represents the money left in slot machines after payouts to winners. But to be fair, Resorts World is still expanding and Sullivan County went through years of tough economic times.
“Locally everyone is ecstatic about the resort,” said Eller, who lives in Garden City, Long Island and is a Jets fan. “It’s like it was when the Concord was here. We are good for this area and the beginning of things to come. We’re adding amenities and having ribbon cutting after ribbon cuttings.”
What has hurt this area over the years has been referred to as the three A’s – air conditioning, assimilation and cheap airfare.
“Many left the area before we arrived,” Eller said. “Of the 1,500 people we have employed, 64 percent were from Sullivan County and many from neighboring counties.”
There is certainly a lot to see and do at Resorts World with 100,000 square feet of gaming space that includes 2,150 cutting-edge slot machines, over 150 live table games and a poker room. The additional amenities include a 10,000 square-foot Crystal Life Day Spa, an all-suite hotel designed to five-star standards plus 10 exclusive bar and restaurant experiences.
That said, the decision against the federal law forbidding sports betting by the Supreme Court is seen as a game changer and something Resorts World was on top of as far back as 2014, well before they came into existence.
“We were immersed in it,” Eller said. “We were behind a constitutional amendment four years ago which the state assembly and senate went forward with. We would love to be having sports betting here in a few months, certainly before football season.”
There are of course political issues, especially being in New York. The NFL, NBA and major league baseball are headquartered there. Arguments like the integrity issue and taxes have to be dealt with. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking a wait and see attitude for now. Not good.
“We are following it closely,” Eller said. “It’s up to New York and Gaming on how long it will take. It could be a few months or in the fall if regulations are done in a rapid fashion. We will definitely like to see it in our casino and at nearby Monticello Raceway. We want it here and have to have it here.”
Eller said he’s been in contact with Nevada, New Jersey and overseas. He cites Nevada as a great example for sports wagering.”
“They have an interesting mechanism and it has proven a boon for the state,” he said. “Major pro leagues will interact and integrity fees will be the dynamic played out before the legislation. New York will be the template. I’m not sure what integrity language will be used but the leagues believe there’s great opportunity.”
Opportunity is putting it mildly. According to 2017 Census estimates, the Metropolitan area (NY, NJ, PA) includes a population of 20.3 million people or roughly 1 in 16 Americans – nearly seven million more than the second-place Los Angeles metro area in the U.S.
“There’s a huge sports market, and betting expands the reach of fans with teams,” Eller said. “It’s exciting to see the amount of economic activity and the influence of mobile devices.”
Sports betting received a boost recently when former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi went before the state legislature in Albany as an advocate.
“I think it’s important for New York to be out on the forefront and get something passed this session. I don’t think we can wait,” Girardi told reporters after speaking to Senate Republicans about the issue.
Like all of us, Eller waits to see what transpires. “We can always use luck in the casino business,” he said.
Encore: Another anxious party planning to cash in on sports betting is The Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City which will open June 28. The first Jersey wager was taken at Monmouth Park race track last Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET.