After wiring $1 million to the New York State Gaming Commission Wednesday, Howe Caverns is now one of 21 applicants in the running for an upstate casino license
The $1 million fee will go toward an extensive background check and also pays for a seat at today's applicants' conference in Albany-an event expected to draw high rollers from throughout the gaming industry.
Friday, the project earned the required backing of the Town of Cobleskill (see related story) and Caverns spokesman Chris Tague said he's confident they'll end up with a winning bid.
"I really think we're the front-runner," he said, "At the end of the day, I think we'll be a winner."
Only the 21 applicants submitting the $1 million fee advance in the fast-moving process; the next big deadline is June 30, when project details are submitted.
Mr. Tague said Howe Caverns has been working with four different casino developers/operators to put together their plan.
He expects they'll have someone in line by the end of May, when the specific project details will also be released.
"We're making it clear to everyone that this needs to fit in with what we already have here," he said. "We would never do anything to hurt what we already have."
Zone 2, which includes Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Washington Counties, is down for one or two of the seven upstate casinos authorized by the state.
Among the applications also submitted last Wednesday are two by Saratoga Harness Racing for projects in Rensselaer and Orange Counties, one by Florida Acquisition Corp. by Clairvest in Town of Florida, Montgomery County, and one by Capital Gaming for a site near Thruway Exit 23 in Albany.
At least a half-dozen other applicants have submitted the $1 million fee-but not a specific site, so it's unclear how many possible projects Howe Caverns is up against.
Like Mr. Tague, Howe Caves Development Corporation President Emil Galasso, who put up the $1 million, is confident of their chances.
"When the smoke clears, we are confident that operators will realize the tremendous potential of our shovel-ready site," Mr. Galasso said in a written statement.
"Our proposal is consistent with the Governor's stated goals to target areas in need and bui8ld designated resorts in communities that express support. It will be clear...we are the only site that has all of these qualities in the Capital Region."
Mr. Tague said Howe Caverns' focus has long been on job creation and pointed to its $2 million investment in extending Cobleskill's water and sewer lines along Route 7.
"Emil looks at this [the casino] as economic development for Schoharie County. The Governor's no stranger here---he promised us help after Irene and Lee. We deserve something good and this could be it."