New racino needs smaller tax

Jun 10, 2008 7:00 PM

by Ray Poirier | The future of the Borscht Belt may well depend on whether the New York lawmakers are willing to compromise by reducing its share of revenues from video slot machines from the legislated 50% to the requested 25%.

What is at stake is the famed Concord Hotel, once one of the most popular settings for young comedians, singers and dancers. Since the 1970s and the decline of summer tourists, the property has been deteriorating.

But developer Louis Cappelli, described by some as the "Donald Trump of Westchester," wants to change all that. Since the federal government refused to approve an Indian casino at the harness racetrack, Monticello, he decided to move the racetrack to the Catskills.

Joined by Dave Hanlon, CEO of Empire Resorts Inc. (NYNY), Cappelli moved his vision of a racino to the Concord, believing the addition of slot machines to the once-popular tourist resort would renew its attraction.

"I believe," said Cappelli when discussing his project, "that single-handedly this project could evolve into one of the great revitalization opportunities that the state has ever experienced in its history."

He hopes to transform the Concord into the "Disney World of the north."

In his pitch to the legislature, Cappelli argues that New York will make more money even with a reduced cut because the video lottery machines will take in so much more money. He proposed making the incentives dependent on thresholds, like doubling education aid from the machines, creating 2,000 permanent jobs and sparking economic benefits of $100 million.

Without the reduced state tax, however, Cappelli says "it would simply be impossible to move ahead with the project."