Sep 8

Despite denials and assurances, a Calverton casino remains a real possibility

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So what’s the latest on a gambling casino for Long Island, maybe on the East End? Will the EPCAL site be off-limits if the state jumps in? Are those repeated assurances of no-casino-can-happen-here any real comfort? Could the State of New York override the Town of Riverhead’s poorly drafted agreements on EPCAL’s future use? Are we blissfully disengaged while NYS and private parties, slowly build upon Albany’s casino agenda?

Let’s remember that, in 2013, NY passed a voter-approved plan for casino gambling in our state. That vote opened the way for no less than seven gaming casinos, four upstate and three downstate. The upstate four have long been in licensed operation. The three casino licenses for downstate, however, remain to be issued, shadowed in a state ordered “moratorium,” with a big dose of mystery and intrigue. This moratorium for any downstate casinos endures till 2023, or so we are led to believe.

It has been reported that several well-heeled casino developers have been pushing the state to end this moratorium on downstate casinos for quite a while, and have hired a cadre of influence peddlers (aka lobbyists) to throw their weight around. But so far, the moratorium has stymied the elites of the casino gambling establishment, such as MGM, Sands, Genting, etc.,

Our governor has resisted — and with Albany now a one-party town, when he likes a moratorium, everyone likes a moratorium. He was a driving force behind the upstate casinos, while trying to appear uninvolved. He’s careful, however, to remark how he dislikes the idea of casino gambling downstate, but he speaks in terms of any “casino deal” that “casino operators” put together. He scoffs at how they are always “promising billions.”

When questioned, however, about casino deals put together by American Indian tribes who have become partners, as he was asked just the other day, the governor says not a word — publicly, that is.

This brings us to the quietly passed, and little noticed, vote taken by the South Fork’s Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal council two weeks ago. Among other things, their resolutions called for exploring a partnership with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to develop a gaming casino on LI. The Seminoles are awash in huge profits from their Hard Rock brand casinos, doing big gambling business in many parts of the U.S. and internationally.

The Seminoles well know how to game the system, shrewdly avoiding the “Indian gaming” license, with its arduous process for state approvals, including a special compact with the state, opting instead for the far less complicated, “commercial gaming” licenses.

Would an Indian tribe partnership, such as between the Shinnecocks and the Seminoles, have the horsepower to break through New York’s moratorium for downstate licenses?

As this column has cautioned in the past, the Shinnecock Indian Nation is not to be underestimated. They have already invested in studying gaming sites all over L.I., including the Nassau Coliseum and Belmont Park. If, indeed, they do combine with the clever and immensely successful Seminole casino empire, there are signs that they might tie in with one of the Seminoles’ eager, financial backers for their casinos, billionaire developer Jack Morris of Tri-State Partners.

And there’s an interesting footnote to the Shinnecocks’ recent vote: it specifically authorizes their tribal officials to start talks with Tri-State Partners. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those chats…

What an irony it would be if two American Indian tribes could manipulate all the rules and regulations, contracts and land sales that Riverhead has so self-assuredly arranged, and land a gambling casino right here at EPCAL! One would think they would keep us posted on where they are going with all this, somewhat like a good neighbor. But on further thought, one realizes that, from an historical perspective, they don’t really owe us very much. After all, what kind of neighbors were we when we moved into their neck of the woods a few hundred years ago?

No way it could happen, right? Well, first consider that the EPCAL contract of sale utterly fails to define what recourse the town would have if the buyer’s “approved uses” of the 1,164 acres were violated.

Consider next the contract’s absurdly vague and largely undefined development plan, to be found all on just one miserable page of the document.

Then consider the recent revelation (reported by the Minnesota Star-Tribune and the Wall Street Journal last month) that Triple Five, the conglomerate controlling the EPCAL deal, had to put up a 49% stake in both of its biggest assets — the megamalls, Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall — as collateral for $1.67 billion in construction financing for the long-delayed American Dream megamall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

This raised serious concerns in town hall, prompting Riverhead’s town board to ask EPCAL’s buyer for “updated financials” from Triple Five. To date, the buyer has not complied — as far as the public knows. Amazingly, the contract also doesn’t require the buyer to provide updated financials in any event. So if the buyer is seriously overextended, we may never know.

And with all those things considered, we can safely conclude that Riverhead would find itself in quite a lonely place if EPCAL’s buyer took the profitable way out of their EPCAL asset that they bought on the cheap. Riverhead could end up at the mercy of the likes of Jack Morris, along with tribal shortcuts to a commercial casino, and the heavyweight, overriding authority of the sovereign State of New York.

The Riverhead Town Board GOP majority offers clumsy reasons to keep under wraps a politically risky review of the EPCAL contract. Their supervisor candidate sings along with this tune. This column has explained before what a startling mess this contract is. And a host of concerns has arisen since it was executed.

This central document gives incredible, if not shocking advantage to the other side.

Moreover, this poorly drafted contract of sale serves as a backdrop to everyone’s intensifying worries about where the EPCAL deal is going. Notice how we hear next to nothing about those lofty plans for aviation manufacturing.

And there’s still aftershock from how the buyers shared only with the state what they thought would be their secret, elaborate, written plans for what appeared to be some sort of jetport, using both of EPCAL’s runways. When exposed, the buyers, at first cranky when briefly caught off guard, quickly replied with a “don’t worry, be happy” song and dance. This episode alone begs the question: Are they really committed at all to Riverhead’s vision for the EPCAL site?

The fact is that, if the Shinnecock/Seminole partnership, with billionaire casino developers behind them, and the secretive power brokers in Albany, all set their sights on a town that has trouble getting out of its own way with all that’s related to EPCAL, then our embarrassing EPCAL sale contract will be even more meaningless. Would it be a sure bet that any “moratorium” on casino licenses for downstate N.Y. will fly out the window like a pair of cold dice?

The only remaining question is whether Riverhead Town will suffer the same irreversible fate as many dismayed communities where gambling casinos have pushed their way in. Though our role as mere spectators may already be sealed, let’s keep a weather eye on our neighboring tribal nation, as they partner with some heavy-hitters, buy piles of chips, and play one helluva high stakes game.

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  • The House “needs to stop the regionalism and take a leap of faith that will allow Chicago to move forward appropriately and responsibly with a casino,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago said. SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s efforts to get a full house of state lawmakers to agree to lighter taxes on a Chicago casino went bust on Thursday in the waning hours of the veto session. And Chicago Democrats weren’t happy. Instead, lawmakers passed a separate, watered down gambling fix bill that beefs up background checks on applicants for casino and sports wagering licenses. The legislative hiccup represents the latest delay to create a Chicago gambling mecca, while the five other municipalities granted new casinos under the legislation signed in June have already submitted developers’ applications to the Illinois Gaming Board. Ultimately, Lightfoot and her team couldn’t get enough support to pass the compromise measure — and some lawmakers wanted an extra piece of revenue for their districts. But bill sponsor State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, called the mayor a “great partner, willing to do whatever it takes” to get to the finish line, including calls to members. That also included a rare visit to the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday. And the setback doesn’t mean the big city casino won’t eventually break ground. The tax structure issue could be brought up again when lawmakers return to session in January. “While we are disappointed that a much-needed fix to the gaming bill won’t be made during this compressed veto session, the Chicago casino is still very much in the sightline thanks to the progress we’ve made with our state partners,” Lightfoot said in a statement, adding that she looks “forward to continuing our conversations about advancing the casino starting in January.” The rookie mayor still has the support of Pritzker, who is counting on revenue from the Chicago mega-casino to help fund his signature $45 billion capital projects plan. “The General Assembly made important technical changes that were needed to ensure the smooth operations of the gaming legislation, but work remains to make sure the Chicago casino opens,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement. “The governor is committed to continuing to work with the city and other stakeholders to finalize this important element.” In attempting to pass the cleanup measure, Rita said he’s working with the mayor’s office “to try to figure out what we can do to get over the goal line.” Rita later told reporters there were several “sideline issues” ? some not even gambling related ? among the House caucus, which stalled support. The cleanup measure vote came a day after the Illinois House passed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pension consolidation plan to help downstate fire and police pensions. And Chicago Democrats who supported that plan argued it’s time for lawmakers from across the state to help the city deal with its pension mess ? which the Chicago casino is supposed to do. “We took a leap of faith, but this body, as somebody said, needs to stop the regionalism and take a leap of faith that will allow Chicago to move forward appropriately and responsibly with a casino that will fund the projects that are going to be built all over this state,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said during debate of the casino cleanup measure. There is another avenue ahead of the January session. As some mayoral critics have urged, the city could put the Chicago casino license out for bid anyway ? even with the with tax structure that a state-hired consultant deemed too “onerous” for any prospective developer to break even ? and see if anyone comes to the table. But Lightfoot has said all along she knew the tax structure wouldn’t work. She signed off this week on a compromise from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Rita which would have thrown out the original 72% effective tax rate on the casino, while also giving the developer more time to pay back a hefty “reconciliation fee.” The legislation currently in place taxes the Chicago casino along the same graduated system as Illinois’ 10 existing casinos, while slapping on an additional 33.3% privilege tax to locate in the city. The revised structure would have introduced a new graduated tax system specific to the Chicago casino with a higher overall tax rate compared to existing casinos but with a smaller percentage going to the state, and a relatively bigger chunk earmarked for the city. For example, an existing casino is taxed at 15% of its gross revenue from slot machines up to $25 million. Under the proposal, the Chicago casino would have been taxed at 22.5% of its gross revenue, with 12% of that going to the state and 10.5% going to the city for its police and firefighter pension funds. That didn’t sit well with some Republicans who viewed it as a special deal for Chicago. Most existing casino towns get a 5% cut of their casinos’ gross revenue. The amended bill that fell short Thursday also briefly held out a hope for a new horse racetrack and casino in the south suburbs, weeks after Pritzker tanked a Tinley Park racino proposal led by video gambling magnate Rick Heidner, after Heidner’s name surfaced in federal search warrants. The amendment would have opened the door to a new harness racetrack in Crete, where Balmoral Park shut down in 2015 ? and which Heidner made a failed bid to purchase out of bankruptcy. But the struggling horse racing industry did not net any legislative wins in the fall veto session. Tina Sfondeles reported from Springfield; Mitchell Armentrout reported from Chicago.
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  • Hk(High Kick) Marketing Agency - Hk(High Kick) News 부산 원도심에 넓게 펼쳐진 친수공간 북항 재개발지역. 시민의 품으로 되돌아온 이곳은 아직 미완성인 까닭에 무한한 가능성을 품고 있다. 더불어 이곳은 정부가 유치를 추진 중인 2030년 부산 월드엑스포(세계박람회) 개최 무대이기도 하다. 세계인의 시선이 집중될 북항 재개발지역을 어떻게 꾸미느냐에 따라 부산의 가치는 크게 달라질 수밖에 없다. 글로벌 관광산업의 관점에서 바라보면 북항 재개발지역의 운명을 좌우할 결정적 요소가 쉽게 포착된다. 바로 복합리조트(IR)이다. 수익성 높은 카지노 시설 바탕으로 공공성 큰 관광·문화시설 함께 조성 ‘亞 대표’ 싱가포르 마리나 베이 샌즈 카지노는 일부, 공연장·미술관 등 운영 日 ‘복합리조트 추진법’ 제정 등 속도 리조트 건설 땐 내국인 760만 명 이탈 연간 누출액 2조 5840억 원 분석도 ■세계는 복합리조트 전쟁 중 눈부시게 성장하는 싱가포르와 마카오에서 교훈을 얻은 세계 각국이 복합리조트 사업에 뛰어들고 있다. 아시아로 무대를 좁혀 보면 일본이 우리보다 먼저 그 필요성에 눈을 뜨고 복합리조트를 향해 급히 달려가고 있다. 일본은 2016년 이른바 ‘복합리조트 추진법’을 제정하고, 이듬해 추진본부를 출범시켰다. 아베 신조 총리가 본부장이고 스가 요시히데 관방장관이 부본부장이다. 복합리조트 조성을 범국가적 과제로 인식하고 있다는 뜻이다. 일본 정부는 오사카, 요코하마, 나가사키 등에 복합리조트 허가를 추진하고 있다. 개장 목표는 2025년께다. 부산과 가까운 러시아 블라디스크토크 인근 엔터테인먼트 특별지구에서도 복합리조트가 추진되고 있다. 필리핀은 마닐라에 이미 4곳의 복합리조트를 보유하고 있다. 베트남, 대만 등도 복합리조트 조성에 적극적이다. 이들 모두 내국인이 출입가능한 오픈 카지노가 전제다. 세계 각국이 복합리조트를 ‘황금알을 낳는 거위’로 인정하며 전향적인 태도로 돌아선 것이다. 그러나 우리는 예외다. 외국인전용 카지노만 허용하는 현행 법규로 인해 오픈 카지노형 복합리조트 진출이 불가능하다. ■안정적 수익으로 북항 관광마이스 견인 복합리조트는 현대 관광마이스 산업 핵심 인프라로 일컬어진다. 관광마이스 분야 활성화를 위해 없어선 안 되는 필수 시설이라는 뜻이다. 북항 재개발지역은 글로벌 복합리조트 자본이 먼저 눈독들이는 복합리조트 ‘적합지’이다. 부산상공회의소는 지난해 복합리조트 유치를 공식 선언했다. 내국인 도박중독 방지 방안 등을 연구해 오픈 카지노형 복합리조트 조성을 반드시 성사시키겠다는 의지를 밝혔다. 부산시도 법규의 한계를 탓하고 있지만 원론적으로는 복합리조트 파급효과를 긍정적으로 바라보고 있다. 복합리조트를 단순한 카지노산업으로 인식해선 곤란하다. 고수익 시설인 카지노를 바탕으로 공공성 높은 관광·문화시설을 함께 조성하는 복합 개발을 가능하게 만들기 때문이다. 아시아 대표적 복합리조트로 부상한 싱가포르 마리나 베이 샌즈의 경우 카지노 시설은 극히 일부에 불과하다. 그러나 리조트에 딸린 컨벤션센터, 미술관, 뮤지컬공연장, 이벤트광장, 쇼핑센터 등의 매머드급 문화·관광 콤플렉스는 ‘일부 시설’인 카지노 덕에 원활히 가동될 수 있다. 일본도 복합리조트 관련 법률에서 카지노 구역을 전체 개발면적의 3% 미만으로 제한하고 있다. 이와 함께 필수포함시설로 대형 마이스시설, 극장, 공연장, 박물관, 미술관 등 관광시설과 연면적 10만㎡ 이상 규모의 호텔을 함께 개발해야 한다고 못 박아 두고 있다. 복합리조트가 갖춘 다양한 관광인프라는 도박꾼보다 보통의 관광객을 훨씬 많이 끌어모은다. 싱가포르 등의 사례에서 확인했듯이 도시를 관광지로 급부상시키는 역할도 한다. 여전히 열린 공간으로 남아 있는 북항 재개발지역은 마이스 중심의 복합리조트 적격지로 평가된다. 부산이 미적거리면 벌써 팔을 걷어붙인 일본이 과실을 독차지할 수 있다는 우려가 높다. 일본 복합리조트가 개장하면 국내 내국인 이탈 수와 누출액이 연간 약 760만 명, 2조 5840억 원에 이를 것이라는 분석이 나와 있다. 국내 외국인 전용카지노 고객의 70%를 차지하는 중국인, 일본인의 상당수가 일본으로 발길을 돌릴 수도 있다. 윤태환 동의대 호텔컨벤션경영학과 교수는 “복합리조트는 카지노 고객만을 대상으로 하는 기존 카지노 시설과는 달리 일반 레저 관광객 흡인력이 높아 관련 산업 전반에 미치는 파급효과가 매우 크다”면서 “북항 재개발지역을 복합리조트를 기반으로 한 고부가가치 체류형 관광 클러스터로 정착시키면 부산의 도시 브랜드 가치도 함께 높일 수 있다”고 강조했다. Hk Marketing news

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