Trading Cove withdraws from Catskills

One of the three southeastern Connecticut gaming operators interested in New York’s Catskills region has abandoned plans to pursue a casino project there, and a second appears to be wavering.

Trading Cove New York, a partnership whose principals include Len Wolman, chairman of the Waterford Hotel Group, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a Wisconsin-based Indian tribe, announced Thursday that they were withdrawing their plans to develop a resort casino in the Sullivan County town of Thompson because of the prospect of a competing casino being built closer to New York City.

Also Thursday, Foxwoods Resort Casino, which has partnered with Muss Development of New York City on a plan to build a resort casino in the Sullivan County town of Liberty, indicated it is now uncertain about the project.

“The possibility of a casino operation in Orange County has made the certainty of securing financing difficult. We are still exploring our options at this time,” John P. Gallagher, a spokesman for Foxwoods Catskills Resort, said.

Mohegan Sun, which has partnered with Westchester developer Louis Cappelli on a casino project at the former site of the Concord Hotel, also in Thompson, remains in the running for a casino license, according to Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Trading Cove will seek the return of the refundable $1 million application fee it paid in April, a spokeswoman said.

“Trading Cove and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community have concluded, after careful review, that the possibility, maybe even the likelihood, of a destination resort with gaming in Orange County so dilutes the market in Sullivan County that building and sustaining a first-class resort in Sullivan is not financially feasible for us,” Wolman and Wallace Miller, tribal president of the Stockbridge Munsee Community, said in a joint statement.

“Sullivan County deserves a quality destination resort. Because we do not believe we can deliver that quality under the current market conditions, it is with deep regret that Trading Cove and the Stockbridge-Munsee will not bid for a gaming license for the 440-acre property at Exit 107 (of Route 17),” they said.

Trading Cove and the Stockbridge-Munsee first proposed a Thompson casino 14 years ago.

Trading Cove, originally a partnership between the Waterford Hotel Group and South African gaming mogul Sol Kerzner, built and at one time managed Mohegan Sun. The Mohegan Tribe bought the partnership out of management deals nearly 15 years ago, agreeing to make so-called “relinquishment payments” to Trading Cove through the end of this year.

Etess acknowledged Thursday that a casino in Orange County would make it virtually impossible for a Catskills casino to succeed.

“We certainly believe there are a lot of questions to be answered about the (licensing) process,” he said. “But we believe it’s in our best interest to continue and push forward, because we believe that the true spirit of New York’s gaming law was to have casinos in the Catskills. We want to be part of that.”

New York’s gaming commission is expected to award four casino licenses in three regions of the state — the Capital Region around Albany and Saratoga, the Eastern Southern Tier and the Catskills/mid-Hudson Valley Region.

In April, 22 bids were submitted, four of which have now been withdrawn. Final applications are due June 30.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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