Casinos Arrive

By Jeffrey Pageroulette wheel

The news that Monticello in Sullivan County had been awarded the Catskills casino site brought mixed feelings, not the least of which was the happy understanding that the roulette spinners and the blackjack dealers will be doing their work there and not here.

“Here” being southern Orange County, where one of the losing casino concerns wanted to build his operation and, in the process, put Sterling Forest at grave risk.

Truth in writing: I must say that after leaving New York City many years ago, I lived for a time in Sullivan County, first in Forestburg and then about eight years in Liberty. It was a time when the big hotels – Kutsher’s, Grossinger’s, the Concord, the Raleigh, and so many others – were still humming, though maybe not as melodically as in years past. It was the start of the end, a time when hotel owners of my time in the mountains, generally a secretive bunch, used to talk out loud about how much fancier – how much glitzier – it had been before when guests were happy and plentiful, and the money rolled in.

A classic dialogue played out any number of times:

“So and so’s going Chapter 11. Couldn’t keep up with Milt and his sports academy.” Then would come the dirge with the grim lyrics: “Fell by the wayside.” Words heard over and over, fell by the wayside. Eventually they all fell by the wayside.

Sullivan County was troubled. By the middle 1970s, Broadway in Monticello was deserted most nights in all seasons. Liberty, always quiet despite the existence of Grossinger’s just down the road, seemed forgotten by the outside world. And South Fallsburg, a place described best by my colleague at the Times Herald-Record, Pete Kutschera: “The place looks like a traveling circus went through 20 years ago and they never got over it.”

No question, Sullivan County needs and deserves a boost. So they’re getting a casino and in all likelihood certain people are dreaming of the money rolling in. I hope a casino gets things moving again, but I have to wonder.

With all the campaigning for a casino site, some important facts about the county and the Town of Thompson and the village of Monticello seem to be missing.

Has anyone in government taken pencil to paper and come up with an estimate of what sorts of changes the area can expect with the opening of a casino? If it’s been done, I confess I missed it.

But right off the bat is the startling statistic that the winner, Montreign Resort Casino, wishes to install 2,150 slot machines, which works out to four slot machines for every resident of Roscoe. Is this progress? Is this any way to a secure future? It worked in Las Vegas where there was no competition but can it work in upstate New York when there’ll be competition from another casino in Schenectady and from gaming tables in nearby states.

In the meantime, how many more cops will have to be hired with the advent of casino gambling? Montreign, projects the creation of 2,400 new jobs. That will require more new housing, more school facilities, more teachers, more equipment. Tax bills likely will go up.

The real winner, if there is one, isn’t the bettor or the community. It’s the casino operator. Any other belief is naive. Is the area ready for such a non-bonanza bonanza?

I’m happy for Sullivan County getting what it wants, but far happier for southern Orange remaining casino-free.

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3 Responses to “Casinos Arrive”

  1. Marshall Rubin Says:

    As a former New Jersey resident who now lives in Sullivan County, I’m familiar enough with casinos to believe that ultimately the county won’t enjoy an economist bonanza, but instead undergo the problems that you’ve already listed in your article.
    One thing you didn’t mention is about why casinos exist: to make money, mainly through the gambling losses by many of its customers– middle and old-age gamblers with social security checks as their only income.

    As for me–maybe my wife and I, who are underwater in our mortgage can sell our home to someone who wants to be where the action is–hmmmm 🙂

  2. Gary Lothrop Says:

    I have to disagree to a degree. Something is always better than nothing and nothing is what we now have. I was born here back in 1952 and witnessed the great times as well as the downfall. As a teen I worked in just about all the hotels and I saw the days when the track in Monticello was a big draw and all the local businesses that provided external support services thrived. Money made elsewhere, usually NYC was spent right here and we enjoyed prosperity. Then it all hit the wall and crashed. I still live here and have been in full support of something, anything that might give us a shot and bring us back to some reasonable degree.
    I must now leave it up to our elected officials, law enforcement and regulators to do what we elect them for and make this work to our advantage. Sure, with any progress we will see some problems. It’s not like we don’t already have crime here. It is not like we don’t already have outrageous taxes and not much relief. To the village of Monticello all I have to say is you better clean your act up and think real hard before you vote. We have excellent law enforcement officials who have their hands tied by the foolishness within our elected officials. That is our fault and we continue to support it. Intelligent leaders with honorable dedication will get us much further than the current partisan politics we now have that belong in the landfill. What we need now is voters who think before they blindly pull the levers. Will we take advantage of this gift we have just received is yet to be seen but continuing to follow past practices will be our fault once again. We need smart leaders and that starts with smart voters.

  3. JeffreyPage Says:

    To: Gary. Believe me, I wish Sullivan County the best of luck with the advent of casinos. My point is that no one has really gone into what a casino will mean for the county and its taxpayers and ordinary (non-casino related) citizens.

    Additionally, the belief that something is always better than nothing throws me for a loop. I can think of several examples of such hopeful anticipation resulting in utter catastrophe.


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