The executive vice president of the parent company of Resorts World Catskills calls the New York City market the “casino Game of Thrones,” but supposedly Catskills is sitting on the Iron Throne.
“People think that sometimes the gaming market is infinitely elastic. It’s not. It’s a game of competition. It’s almost like casino Game of Thrones…But right now, we’re sitting on the Iron Throne, and we’re just about to launch a facility that really is unparalleled, certainly on the East Coast.”
“We’re going to pursue that market too, and we think we’re going to win it,” he said to Morning Call.
With a destination resort in the works and slotted for opening Feb. 8 (just before Chinese New Year), Resorts World Catskills will feature:
- 100,000 square-foot casino floor
- 2,150 slot machines
- Over 150 live table games
- An entertainment village
- An 18-hole Rees Jones golf course
- An indoor water park
- Private gambling salons
- 18-story glass casino and hotel
This $1.2 billion investment in Sullivan County will compete with Sands Bethlehem. While Sands will maintain its location advantage, only 80 miles outside New York, it’s only winning by about 10 miles.
A look at the casinos in the game
For this budding gaming market, the following casinos provide competition:
- Mount Airy, Pennsylvania
- Sands Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
- Mohegan Sun, Pennsylvania
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City (summer 2018)
- Revel as Ocean Resort Casino
- New casino in Tiverton, Rhode Island
- MGM National Harbor, Maryland
- Wynn Boston project (2019), Massachusetts
- MGM Springfield casino, Massachusetts
- Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun joint casino, near Hartford, Connecticut
- Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia (2020), Pennsylvania
New Jersey once dominated the casino market, but its rules against innovation may have resulted in more harm than good. Jeremy Kleinman, a gaming lawyer in the state, told Record Online the state now has some ground to make up.
“New Jersey became complacent and got caught sleeping, and didn’t innovate or update their regulations or reinvest in the Atlantic City casinos,” Kleiman said to Record Online. “They woke up one day and realized there was competition all around, from Pennsylvania to Delaware, West Virginia and New York, and it was almost too late to reinvent.”
The way to compete, comparatively, is to market to a new audience with attractions beyond gaming.
Catskills: It’s a long way to the top
Sands snagged more than $21 million in gross table game revenue, up almost 11 percent from the total at the same time the prior year. That is more than its closest PA casino competitor, who sat $5.7 million behind: Parx Casino.
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Sands offered $149 million in promotional plays, according to The Morning Call.
Fifty percent of its table game numbers traced back to gamblers in New Jersey and New York. Moreover, the 50-plus busloads of people who make their way to the casino from predominantly Asian New York neighborhoods like Flushing, Chinatown, and Brooklyn are a large chunk of the customer base.
Back in 2013, the then Sands President Robert DeSalvio explained this percentage to The Morning Call.
Sands vs. Catskills
Beyond being major competitors, there are some discriminators that pit Sands Bethlehem and Catskills against each other once that grand opening comes around.
- Gambling taxes – Catskills will potentially offer more free play and promotions, given that their gambling taxes are lower than in Pennsylvania. Catskills will face a 39 percent tax on slot machines and just a 10 percent tax on table game revenue. Comparatively, Pennsylvania taxes slot revenue at 55 percent and table game revenue at 16 percent.
- Name brand – Resorts World brand and logo, associated with Genting Rewards Alliance loyalty program, could give it a way to reach gamblers in its database. It could then attract them to Catskills and Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
- Revenue – Sands brought in about $539 million in 2016-2017, while Catskills filed paperwork in New York in 2014 that estimated $301.6 million in gross gambling revenue in 2019.
The biggest concern for Sands moving forward may not be Catskills. Instead, gambling expansion as a whole could bring a closer New York casin into the game and make the 80-mile distance more of an issue.