Legislators want casino for Orange


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Casino Taskforce

County legislators:
Michael Amo
Katie Bonelli
Jeffrey Berkman
Kevin Hines
Dennis Simmons
Shannon Wong
Curly Dillard
Myrna Kemnitz
John Vero
Steve Brescia
Supportive taskforce:
Orange County Partnership
David Church of Orange County Planning
Wayne Booth, Deputy County Executive
Harry Porr, Director of Operations

— While the likelihood of a casino in our area seems to get more real every day, so do the lists of potential benefits and drawbacks.

Orange County officials are saying: "We did not seek these developers. They came to our doorstep."

Nevertheless, they are very happy about it. If any one of the four or five sites being considered in Orange County is selected — including the Cassidy Driving Range in Blooming Grove — it will mean big bucks, both for the town it's located in, and for the county: $10 million each to start, plus a condition of assessment at full property tax rate.

A special public information session with the prospective developer for the Blooming Grove casino will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at Washingtonville High School on Route 94.

Also under consideration are the Harriman Metro-North station by the Harriman tollbooths, and two sites in the Newburgh area, one adjacent to Stewart Airport.

Hiring locals
County officials say they will require that any new casino hire and train local residents, and use contractors to the county's benefit. The impact on the county's tax problems could be huge.

Only two licenses will be given to the lower Hudson Valley. County Executive Steve Neuhaus said the former Camp LaGuardia site had also been mentioned as a possible site for a casino resort.

The legislature's Rules Committee this week stated its willingness to welcome a casino anywhere in the county, as long as the town it is being proposed for welcomes it, infrastructure is handled responsibly, and noise minimized during construction. Their resolution will go before the full legislature in early May.

County Executive, Steve Neuhaus, who has already met with several casino companies, says they see Orange County as an attractive destination and have already promised to expedite and pay for upgrades to the Route 17 corridor. So far, all parties involved agree that, ideally, a casino resort would have its own exit and entrance ramps to prevent traffic snarls.

The county's casino taskforce will help sort the many facts and rumors swirling around the idea, so the public will have a place to turn for "the truth." The taskforce, as an advisory board appointed for four years, will not require legislative approval.

Casino developer Flaum Management Group currently has dibs on the Metro-North Railroad site. Two other companies big in the gaming industry, Cordish and Penn National, then discovered the Blooming Grove site and are considering combining their expertise there in a joint venture.

Fast track for gaming license
Selecting casino candidates is like being at a gaming table. Stakes are high, and it costs $1 million just to be entered into the pool. So, in the race for a gaming license, the county's former Off-Track Betting Committee was earlier this month upgraded to the "Economic Development Gaming Committee." No sooner was a four-member committee established than it expanded with five additional members of the legislature. (See list.)

The fast-approaching deadline for developers to submit their casino plan — plus $1 million for a license — is April 23. The winner is expected to be announced next fall.

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