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Monticello ‘Gambling Dream’ Fighting Long Odds

poker.jpgFive years ago Tuesday, the racino at Monticello Raceway opened with as much flair as the rainbow-colored fountains that flowed in the track’s Borscht Belt heyday.

The throngs who ran to the beeping slot machines represented 40 years of Catskill gambling dreams come true, said supporters. The racino was the first step towards the full-fledged savior, a casino.

The protestors standing outside said the place that touts itself as “a little Vegas in your backyard” would be the first step on Sullivan County’s road to ruin. It would clog roads and tempt problem gamblers.

Today, Monticello Gaming & Raceway is neither savior nor devil. It’s a business fighting for survival.

Its daily take per slot is the lowest of New York’s eight racinos — the second-lowest of all 42 casinos and racinos in the Northeast, according to the most recent Gaming Industry Observer’s East Coast Slot Report. Attendance continues to plummet, down 11 percent from last year.

It owes creditors $72 million, with $65 million due by the end of next month.

It does not have the money.

“We do not presently have a source of repayment … and our operations will not provide sufficient cash flow to repay these obligations,” says its most recent government filing. It is, however, actively seeking solutions, including new financing.

The factors that were supposed to guarantee the racino’s success in 2004 — proximity to the metropolitan area and the Poconos — are now cited as reasons for its decline, with the Yonkers racino and Poconos casinos taking huge chunks of the Monticello market.

Five years after it opened, the racino at Monticello Raceway — under new management this month — is at a crossroads.

It’s gambling on a couple of shots in the arm to survive:

A new racino, Entertainment City at the old Concord resort, owned by its parent company, Empire Resorts.

Video table games, to be installed at all New York racinos, including Yonkers and a future racino at Aqueduct.

At stake isn’t just Sullivan’s decades-long gambling dream.

The racino employs some 300 workers in a county with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates.

It also pays some $1.7 million per year to three municipalities: Monticello, the Town of Thompson and Sullivan County.

“It’s just extremely important to us all,” says Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini.

(Source: Times Herald Record)

6 Responses

  1. The failure at monticelleo raceway should be made public. We do not want gambling in sullivan county and this story helps that cause.For years we have heard about the supposed financil windfall that the county would reap if gambling wouls become a reality.
    Well, this story proves that its all just a pipe dream.GAMBLING IS A DISMAL FAILURE!
    Good job YWN.

  2. An economy of a region (and the governments that need the revenue) based on casinos. Is this really what you want? This seems to vindicate those who said the line that starts with lotteries, and proceeds to casinos, and moves on to brothels, drug parlors, etc.

  3. the county needs the revenue to keep the roads pavved and provide needed services. who knows, perhaps a better hospital will be atracted to the region!

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