Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority to file final application Monday for Catskills casino

By: Brian Hallenbeck
Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority executives, likely frustrated by developments in the casino-licensing process in Massachusetts, can look to the west for some distraction, at least for a day or two.

Monday is the deadline for final applications for New York state casino licenses.

“We will be filing a final application Monday,” Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan authority’s chief executive officer, asserted Friday.

The authority, in partnership with Westchester, N.Y., developer Louis Cappelli, has proposed a resort casino at the former site of the Concord Hotel in the Sullivan County town of Thompson. First unveiled in 2011, with a $600 million price tag attached, the project was one of five proposed for the Catskills this spring when preliminary applications were solicited by the New York State Gaming Commission.

As of Friday, only three of the five remained in the running for the one or two licenses the commission could award for the region. Both of the applicants that withdrew have ties to southeastern Connecticut: Foxwoods Resort Casino, which had partnered with a New York City developer on a plan to develop the former Grossinger’s property in the Sullivan County town of Liberty, and Trading Cove, which had partnered with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a Wisconsin-based Indian tribe, on a plan for a Thompson casino.

Trading Cove’s principals include Len Wolman, chairman of the Waterford Hotel Group.

Both Foxwoods and Trading Cove said the prospect of a competing casino being built between New York City and the Catskills made it too difficult to secure financing for their projects. Both obtained refunds of the $1 million application fees they paid in April.

As of Friday, the New York gaming commission’s website listed 17 remaining applications for the four licenses it expects to award in three upstate regions, including the Catskills/mid-Hudson Valley. There were originally 22 applications.

In addition to the Mohegan-Cappelli partnership, the entities still in the running for a Catskills license are Empire Resorts, which would build a $750 million resort casino near its Monticello Casino & Raceway in Thompson, and Nevele Investors LLC, which plans a $640 million redevelopment of the former Nevele Grande resort in the Ulster County village of Ellenville.

New York’s gaming regulators are expected to finish evaluating applications in September.

New York is not the only gaming jurisdiction that could divert the Mohegan authority’s focus from Massachusetts, where Mohegan Sun has proposed a $1.3 billion resort in the Greater Boston city of Revere. The authority is also pursuing a casino license in Philadelphia, where it has partnered on a $500 million proposal and where the field shrank Friday from five to four applicants.

Penn National Gaming announced it was abandoning its bid to build a casino in south Philadelphia, citing city officials’ preference for a downtown project and growing competition in the market. The Mohegan authority’s project would be located on Eighth and Market streets in the heart of Philadelphia.

In Massachusetts, the Mohegan authority could learn this week whether gaming regulators will award the Greater Boston casino license by early September or wait until after a November referendum that could result in the repeal of the law that authorized Bay State casinos.