N.Y. Shopping Mall Targeted for VLTs

Resorts World Catskills wants to bring VLTs to a former department store (l.) in Orange County, about 60 miles north of New York City. The machines once were on the gaming floor at Monticello Raceway.

Resorts World Catskills wants to open a major VLT venue at a shopping mall about 60 miles north of New York City.

The largest of New York’s four upstate commercial casinos, located in Thompson in Sullivan County, has been looking for a home for as many as 1,100 of the machine games since its sister racino at nearby Monticello Raceway in Monticello succumbed to the competition Resorts World presented and was closed in the spring of 2019.

The site Resorts World proposes is a 68,000-square-foot property at the Newburgh Mall that once was a Bon-Ton department store and is occupied currently by a Jennifer Furniture outlet.

The 40-year-old mall, whose anchor tenants include the last Sears in the Hudson Valley, has been struggling for some time, but it enjoys a prominent location about 50 miles southeast of Monticello in Orange County near the intersection of Interstate 84 and the New York State Thruway.

“Developing a video gaming machine facility in Orange County has, for many years, been part of Resorts World’s long-term vision for Hudson Valley and the Catskills,” said Malaysia-based resort conglomerate Genting, which indirectly owns both Resorts World and Monticello Raceway. “It will create hundreds of good-paying unions jobs, generate significant revenue for New York’s public schools, and is an important step in ensuring the long-term sustainability of Resorts World Catskills.”

The plan is scheduled to come before the Newburgh Town Board on February 22. The board will need to amend its zoning to accommodate gaming at the location. Planning Board approval also is required along with an environmental review.

The venue is expected to take a year to develop and will employ around 225 people.

“I want it to be successful at that site, and I think that area could use a boost,” said Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus.

Resorts World Catskills and Monticello are directly owned and operated by Empire Resorts, which was a Nasdaq-listed public company prior to 2019 with a Genting-controlled entity, Kien Huat Realty, as majority shareholder.

The opening of Resorts World early in 2018 made the racino redundant and it closed the following spring after 11 years in business. But Empire’s woes continued after Resorts World failed to perform to expectations in New York’s crowded gaming market, and the double blow had Empire preparing to seek the protection of U.S. Bankruptcy Court when Kien Huat and other Genting entities bought out its minority shareholders and took it private in the fall of 2019.

Monticello’s 1,100 VLTs were up for grabs at that point, but Empire, backed by Genting, beat out eight other submissions with a $1.2 billion bid to keep them and was permitted by the New York Gaming Commission to relocate them.

Their first home was to be a defunct chemical plant in the Orange County town of Harriman, which is closer to New York City and the major population centers of northern New Jersey, but the site proved too contaminated to be workable.