The latest salvo in the decentralization of the land based casino industry and in the competition between land based casinos and online casinos was “fired” on February 8 when Resorts World opened their new casino in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York – only a 90 minute drive from Manhattan!
More than a Casino
The entire casino complex will ultimately cost at least 1.2 billion dollars to build and furbish. The main building, an 18 story hotel and casino is finished and open. Still under construction are a water park, a family-oriented shopping and entertainment complex, a golf course from when the land was owned by the old Concord Hotel, and more hotel rooms. The water park and entertainment center are expected to open next year and the next set of hotel rooms may open in the next few months.
The hotel caters to minimally high end customers to genuine high rollers. Each room is a suite. High rollers can rent luxury accommodation that more closely resemble a large home rather than a hotel suite. The “villas” come with a private pool. High rollers can also request a private gambling room with a private staff.
Targetting New Yorkers, Asians, and Locals
The hotel and casino are being marketed with two primary groups in mind: New Yorkers and Asians. There is a section of the casino set aside for people who want to gamble in the atmosphere of an Asian casino. The food court that also opened on February 8 has high-end cuisine options including an Asian restaurant.
The casino will naturally draw customers from a radius of a few hundred miles but most of the high rollers will naturally come from New York City. The location of a resort so close to Manhattan—ninety miles—immediately poses serious competition to Atlantic City. It also makes it far less desirable for people from the New York-New England area to fly to Las Vegas for a gambling and entertainment weekend.
Importing the Integrated Resort Idea
The main owner of empire Resorts is a Malaysian national, KT Lim, a vastly wealthy man who owns Genting, a giant in the international casino industry. This is significant because Resorts World Catskills will far more resemble an Integrated Resort than a casino and hotel complex.
Integrated Resorts are the Southeast Asian solution to the desire to have casino income without attracting customers exclusively to a casino. it is the only way Singapore would allow a casino to open there.
An Integrated Resort has a complete entertainment complex, a shopping center, and a convention center. Resorts World Catskills will market itself as much to families as to couples or individuals. The emphasis on suites and other high roller amenities means that many of the gambling customers will be wealthy people, not the sort to bring the problems such as higher crime rates.
The racetrack that has operated on the grounds for decades will remain in operation. Racetrack patrons may then take in a little casino gambling before or after their time at the track.
According to reports, the casino will have 150 casino gaming tables and 2150 slot machines. The racetrack has over 1000 video lottery terminals.
The resort is also partnering with established local arts, entertainment, and commercial businesses and groups such as the Bethel Performing Arts Center and the Woodbury Commons Outlet mall.
Industry Observers Pros and Cons
Some observers see Resorts World Catskills as a huge gamble for the parent company. For one thing, there are already several casinos in the nearby area including Upstate New York. The New York City gaming business has gone to Atlantic City and the gaming centers in Queens.
Countering the doubters are those who say that the Integrated Resort theme means that families can come and never actually spend any time in the casino. The resort would profit from selling rooms, food, and rentals on retail stores even without every patron gambling. That is the essence of the Integrated Resort idea.
Catskills: Much to Offer Vacationers
The Catskills are also a beautiful area, long favored by New Yorkers who rent bungalows for the summer months to get away from the heat and humidity of the summer in the city. The high end suites in the hotel allow families to come, swim in the hotel pools or in the local lakes, fish, hike, or spend the weekend at the indoor water park, again, being highly profitable to the casino without even adding gambling into the mix.
Next Stage in Catskill Resort History
For generations of New York Jews, the many kosher resorts that dotted the Catskills were vacation meccas where they could eat, swim, and laugh at the humor of the famed Borscht Belt comedians. A Who’s Who of American standup comedians of a bygone era worked the Catskills including Woody Allen, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, Jerry Seinfeld, and dozens of others.
By the 1970’s the Catskill resorts had lost their clientele; the up and coming generation looked for more modern forms of entertainment and were far less concerned about eating only kosher food. One by one, the kosher resorts closed their doors.
Resorts World Catskills is built on the land where the Concord Hotel entertained tens of thousands of guests over its 50 year run. This is also considered significant for both sentimental reasons but also because the rotting kosher resorts were a blight on the landscape. The locals hope that the new resort will be successful enough to bring in more money to build other businesses or attractions in the same way that Walt Disney World in Florida inspired the construction of dozens of other attractions.