Racetrack owner plans $400 million expansion of Catskills casino

The Department of Interior’s rejection last week of a controversial proposal for a casino in the Catskill Mountains was a setback for the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, a Wisconsin Indian tribe hoping to be the developer. But it was good news for Empire Resorts, a racetrack owner in the area that has been planning a major expansion, the Wall Street Journal reported. Empire, which owns and operates the Monticello Casino & Raceway about 90 miles from New York, is asking state legislators for help in financing a $400 million upgrade of its existing harness-racing facility. Under the plan, disclosed last week in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Empire would add three hotels, two restaurants and a spa, and also renovate its existing gambling area. The company added slots and other electronic gambling machines in 2004 but wants to develop table gambling as well. Empire’s move towards expansion is the latest development in the saga of Indian tribes and others trying to develop casino gambling in the Catskills, a region seeking to rebuild its reputation as a getaway destination for New Yorkers. Meanwhile, gambling choices are expanded in the New York City market in Connecticut, Atlantic City, N.J., and Pennsylvania. Most recently, Malaysia’s Genting began construction of the first legal slots in New York City at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. [WSJ]

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