Cuomo budget would end $1.2 million in annual aid for former Sullivan County VLTs

Chris McKenna

| Times Herald-Record

The 2019 state deal that authorized Resorts World to open a gambling hall in Orange County required the state to keep paying aid each year to Sullivan County and two municipalities for the 1,100 video lottery terminals operated until then at Monticello Raceway.

But as the casino operator now pursues plans for a video gaming facility in the Newburgh Mall, the stipulation two years ago to preserve about $1.2 million in annual payments for the Town of Thompson, Sullivan County and Village of Monticello could be undone by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget plans.

Cuomo has proposed to end payments to nearly all municipalities and counties that host video lottery terminals, or VLTs – a funding stream they’ve gotten since 2006 to offset costs associated with those gambling operations. The only exception would be Yonkers, which would continue receiving nearly $19 million in VLT aid because it spends that funding on education, Cuomo explained in his budget proposal.

Cuomo also tried to eliminate VLT aid last year but relented in budget negotiations with lawmakers. Assemblyman Aileen Gunther, a Forestburgh Democrat who represents most of Sullivan County, predicted on Tuesday the same outcome will occur this year.

“If I were a betting woman, I would say that $1.2 million will be coming to Sullivan County, Monticello and the Town of Thompson,” she said.

State deems aid ‘unnecessary’

State officials argue the aid is unnecessary. Budget Division spokesman Freeman Klopott said in a statement: “Local governments across the state benefit from hosting video lottery terminal facilities in the form of increased economic activity, far outweighing any possible costs associated with hosting one.”

In Sullivan County, the VLT aid consists of $602,780 for Thompson, $293,141 for the county and $276,644 for Monticello. Because of the 2019 state budget deal allowing a new gambling hall in Orange County, those payments continued after Monticello Raceway removed the video lottery terminals it had operated since 2004.

The same 2019 deal also stipulated that Orange County and whichever municipality in Orange ultimately hosted those machines would get the same total VLT aid as Sullivan County, Thompson and Monticello.

Eliminating VLT aid, as Cuomo has proposed, would block that stipulation as well. But regardless of how his proposal fares in budget negotiations, the Town of Newburgh stands to gain an even higher amount under Resorts World’s offer to pay the town $3 million a year in host fees, as company executives outlined in a presentation to the Town Board on Monday night.

MORE: Resorts World offers Town of Newburgh $3 million a year in host fees

MORE: Resorts World picks Newburgh Mall for new gambling hall

MORE: Budget deal allows new gambling hall in Orange County

Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber said Tuesday that annual VLT aid has been a “huge benefit” for his town. But his board budgeted none for 2021 because of the uncertainty it would continue receiving $600,000 a year from the state.

“I’m a believer in budgeting for money when I know I’m going to get it,” he said.

Optimistic view

Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek said both Gunther and state Sen. Mike Martucci – whose district includes Sullivan County – are advocating to retain VLT aid in the budget. He also voiced optimism that Resorts World’s planned operation in Newburgh won’t undercut the casino it opened in the Town of Thompson in 2018 – Resorts World Catskills.

“Resorts World continues to be a powerful engine for our economy, and considering that they’ve invested over $1 billion in developing a world-class casino resort here, I have faith that they will seek to avoid undermining the income they produce – a portion of which contributes significant revenue to our budget – and use the Newburgh facility to aggressively promote visits to their other properties, including Resorts World Catskills,” Potosek said in an emailed statement. “If they carry that out successfully, I’m hopeful we could see more visitors to Sullivan County, not less.”

Resorts World executives on Monday outlined plans for a gambling hall with 1,300 video gaming machines in the Newburgh Mall, occupying space that was once a Bon-Ton department store and now houses a Jennifer Furniture outlet. Company officials told the Time Herald-Record earlier this month that they expected to complete construction up to a year after they get the town and state approvals they need.

The $32 million Resorts World Hudson Valley project is expected to employ about 200 construction workers. Some 200 to 225 full-time workers will staff the gambling hall once it opens, according to the company.

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