Woodbury VLT deal set

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ALBANY – Legislation to establish a video lottery terminal facility in Orange County has been approved in Albany.

The VLT license, held by Empire Resorts, owner of Resorts World, will be transferred from the now-closed Monticello Raceway operation to a new site in Woodbury.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D, Forestburg) said she wanted a deal that was beneficial to the racetrack, horsemen, Empire Resorts, and Orange and Sullivan counties.

“Empire Resort was screaming and talking about that they were going to go bankrupt so what basically is happening is, of course we care about horseracing,  of course we care about jobs in Sullivan County, we also care about Orange County and we wanted to see a fair deal for all involved,” Gunther said.

During negotiations with Resorts World, Senator James Skoufis (D, Woodbury) outlined conditions that he said must be met in order to earn his support:

  1. Site the facility at the former Nepera Chemical Plant property that is contaminated and, for the better part of a decade, has been reduced to rubble
  2. No tax breaks. Skoufis was adamant that the company must clean up the property and pay full taxes

Resorts World agreed to both conditions. There is also agreement on four other conditions.

  • Remediating a blighted, contaminated property in the community
  • Substantial and full payment of property taxes to the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District, Town of Woodbury, and Villages of Harriman and Woodbury
  • Approximately 400 good-paying, union jobs
  • Over $1.2 million in VLT impact aid to fully offset – and then some – the cost of municipal services associated with the project such as fire and police

Gunther and Senator Jennifer Metzger (D, Rosendale), who both represent parts of Sullivan County, said the legislation commits Resorts World Catskills, also owned by Empire Resorts, to preserve at least 1,473 full-time jobs at the casino and also will require a full restoration of impact aid to the county, Town of Thompson, and Village of Monticello that was lost with the closure of the Monticello racino. That amounted to more than $1.2 million annually, they said.

The legislation will also increase the purses for the horsemen and include in the statute the “long-term operation of harness racing in Monticello,” Gunther and Metzger said.

They called the deal the “best possible outcome for the people of Sullivan County.”

The project will be subject to the local planning board process just as any other construction would and be required to mitigate any additional traffic.

“I’m not particularly pro- or anti-gambling so I used this opportunity to deliver real, substantive economic benefits to the constituents I represent,” said Skoufis. “The former Nepera Chemical Plant property has been a contaminated blight in our community for years; as a result of this project, it will now be cleaned, put back on the tax rolls, and employ approximately 400 local residents. It was also important to me that the facility be kept out of a residential neighborhood to avoid any disturbances. This agreement was always about bringing benefits to the community I’m proud to represent.”

Woodbury Town Supervisor Frank Palermo said the VLT operation “will create a new economic driver to our community, provide new annual tax revenue and protect taxpayers from subsidizing the project.” He said the project will “bring lasting jobs to our community and clean up a contaminated, blighted property.”