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Casino developers rethink parts of Catskills

Albany -- For years, developers had hoped New York would open its doors to private casinos in an effort to convert abandoned or little-used resorts in the famed Borscht Belt of the Catskills.

When voters last November approved private casinos in the state, those developers were quick to outline their plans for facilities like the former Nevele Grand Hotel near Ellenville, Ulster County, or Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel in Sullivan County.

But in recent days, one potential developer, Trading Cove New York, dropped its plan for a casino in Thompson, Sullivan County. Another, Connecticut-based Foxwoods Resort Casino, signaled it was rethinking its plan for renovating Grossinger's.

Both cited a similar obstacle: Orange County.

Last year, the mid-Hudson Valley county was grouped in with the Catskills region when state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo approved a law governing the casino-siting process.

"The possibility of a casino operation in Orange County has made the certainty of securing financing very difficult," said John Gallagher, a spokesman for the proposed Foxwoods Catskills Resort. "However, we are still exploring our options at this time."

Orange County has proven to be attractive to major casino operators, with both Caesars Entertainment and Malaysian casino giant Genting Group proposing gaming halls in Woodbury and Tuxedo, respectively. Caesars has partnered with Rochester-based developer Flaum Management Co. Inc.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which operates a racetrack casino in Saratoga Springs, has also proposed a casino in Newburgh, Orange County, while at least two other proposals have been floated in the county.

The Orange proposals have a major economic advantage over the Catskills: They're closer to New York City. Woodbury, for example, is about an hour from the city, about 40 minutes closer than Ellenville. Tuxedo is just 41 miles from Manhattan.

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