Little Pigeons Can Carry Great Messages: Small-timers Bid for New York Casinos

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Apart from the giant gambling operators, some small businesses are also bidding for New York casino licenses.

The upstate New York is preparing to open its territory to construction of casino resorts following the necessary changes to American gambling laws in the state. While the natural contenders for the licenses include the big casino sharks of Caesars, Foxwoods, and so on, there are some unusually small players involved as well.

One such applicant is Howe Cavers, a family-run business marketing themselves as the largest show cave on the Northeast. The roadside attraction includes boat rides through natural catacombs deep under the surface.

Running a casino

Small-timers bid for casino development in New York state

• Local business will compete with gambling giants for New York casino licenses
• New casinos to be built after a change to American gambling laws
• Four New York areas have been prioritized for casino sites

The first question that pops into everyone’s mind is how can such small business run a large land-based or possibly online casinos in the United States. The owner of Howe Cavers, Emil Galasso, has stated they don’t really know anything about casino business, but he’s certain local enterprises like his should get a chance for a piece of casino action.

He has been quoted in American gambling news, saying: “This is an economically depressed area — just what the law was designed for. We have 330 acres that are shovel-ready. We’re really a diamond in the rough.” The cave they operate is a stone throw away from Albany in Schoharie County and attracts 150,000 visitors annually.

Why now?

Last year, the New York state has passed an amendment to constitution allowing up to seven full-grown casinos in the state, besides the already existing Indian-operated establishments. In the beginning four regions are considered for hosting the casinos: Southern Tier-Finger Lakes, the Catskills, Albany-Saratoga, and mid-Hudson River Valley.

Even applying for a consideration will come at a price: $1 million to start background checks. However, some of that money will be returned to applicants if they are eliminated from the list or drop out themselves.

Is it worth it for small-timers?

Interestingly enough, it might seem as a gamble for Galasso to apply, but it’s actually worth it according to him. The entrepreneur has a vision of a “boutique” casino close to his cave, featuring a waterpark, a dinosaur-themed amusement park, and even an RV parking area. Such arrangement will certainly give a boost to local area, where unemployment rate is a little bit above the state average.

Galasso is not the only small-timer in the running for casino licenses. A Rochester real estate company, Wilmorite, is also a family business planning to run for a $350 million casino in Tyre. Owners of a conference center in Broome County and Traditions at the Glen resort, the Walsh family, are applying for a $150 million gambling resort in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes area.

Bill Walsh commented: “We know this community. We have a great project that would really benefit the area.”

The competition

Naturally, all the smaller guys bidding for New York casinos will run to a massive wall of competition from the casino operators. Caesars is operating over 50 casinos countrywide. Cordish Companies has extensive casino construction experience in Florida and Maryland. While Saratoga and Tioga Downs both run racetracks and slot halls.

Another big competitor is Genting Group, a world-renowned conglomerate, which among others operates the Resort World Casino New York City located at the Aqueduct Racetrack. Christian Goode, senior VP of Genting Americas, had the following comments: “Destination resorts are our specialty.”

Most interesting locations

The Catskills and the mid-Hudson Valley look like the best candidates for new casino locations. This is mainly due to their proximity to New York City itself. Over 10 developers are proposing to build casinos there. Orange County is next on the list of popularity with big names bidding to build resorts there.

Expert opinion

According to a University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor, William Thompson, the mix of small-runners and casino giants bidding for the licenses isn’t something new. When a given state plans to open up new casinos local businesses and real estate firms often submit bids and proposals.

However, smaller companies usually struggle against giants showing industry experience and virtually unlimited funds. Nonetheless, the small-timers have huge support from local communities, which may be an important factor.

Here’s what the professor had to say on the matter: “You get some small operators that will try to sell the mom-and-pop idea, but usually they’ll get a place nobody else wants. This is a business that needs capital, and that’s where the smaller operations miss out.”

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