tate Sen. James Skoufis and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow of Yonkers have submitted differing bills in recent days that would allow Resorts World Catskills to offer electronic gaming machines in the Town of Woodbury. Both bills would require the casino to work out a mitigation agreement to offset any potential losses at MGM-owned Yonkers Raceway, while preserving horse racing in Monticello.
The Skoufis bill is aimed at energizing earnings for Sullivan County’s struggling casino, while the Pretlow bill appears more concerned with protecting electronic gaming at Yonkers Raceway, the Times Herald-Record reports.
Although the state legislative session ends Wednesday, it could go longer, said Skoufis, who added that legislators will work hard to reconcile the two bills before adjourning.
In April, Empire Resorts leaders said they were open to operating up to 1,100 video lottery terminals near Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, but no location is specified in either bill.
"It is vital that we do what we need to do to make sure that the casino’s doors remain open," said Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, whose bill co-sponsors include state Sens. Jen Metzger, Shelley Mayer and Joseph Addabbo.
Meanwhile, Malaysian-Chinese casino magnate K.T. Lim’s family trust is accelerating how quickly it will inject millions of dollars into Empire Resorts, parent company to Resorts World Catskills, which the trust majority owns.
Last November, Lim, whose family trust, Kien Huat Realty, owns 88 percent of Empire Resorts, agreed to provide equity financing by purchasing up to $126 million in Empire Resorts’ preferred stock by March 2020. Now, it’ll do so by Nov. 15 of this year. The separate moves reflect efforts to improve the finances of struggling Resorts World Catskills in the Town of Thompson.
Last month, Empire Resorts recorded a first-quarter 2019 loss of $37.54 million on revenue of $57.6 million and operating expenses of $76.24 million. And the company lost $138.7 million in 2018. Empire Resorts will release second-quarter financial filings next month.
The Skoufis bill was set to be revised Monday night to let the casino keep 59 percent of slots revenue in Woodbury, with 8.75 percent going to the Monticello Raceway’s purses, 1.25 percent set aside for a breeders’ fund, and the remainder going to the state.
The bill also would require the Sullivan County casino to keep 90 percent of its staffing levels as of the end of the third-quarter of 2018, while forbidding a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for a Woodbury electronic slots facility.
The bill aims to improve the casino’s finances, create hundreds of Woodbury jobs and ensure Monticello’s harness racing track remains open.
Though not enumerated in the legislation, Skoufis said he and the other legislators would press the casino to avoid putting the slots near a residential neighborhood, while addressing traffic and community concerns.
The bill by Pretlow, who could not be reached to comment, would allow the casino to keep 30 percent of any video lottery terminal revenue.
Like the Skoufis bill, Pretlow’s legislation includes the same 8.75 percent and 1.25 percent revenue splits for purses and breeders, with the remainder going to the state.
But the Pretlow bill neither requires the casino to maintain its Sullivan County staffing levels nor forbids a Woodbury PILOT.
Skoufis said that "at 30 percent, Pretlow’s bill is not viable because it’s not enough revenue for the casino to make it work."
It’s unclear how adding slots in Orange County would help the casino’s finances, given that its leaders cited “a glut” of Northeast gaming options while removing roughly 1,100 video lottery terminals from Monticello Raceway on April 23.
And in March, casino executives attained state permission to eliminate 550 slot machines, dropping to 1,600 in Thompson, after opening in early 2018 with 2,157 machines.
Skoufis said that MGM and Empire Resorts have recently conducted studies showing electronic gaming is viable in Woodbury.
And he’s confident the companies have worked out, or are close to working out, an agreement that would mitigate any financial effects on Yonkers Raceway’s electronic gaming.