THOMPSON – The building is up, a great green-glass shark’s fin towering over the landscape of southwestern Sullivan County, the tallest structure in Sullivan, Ulster or Orange counties at eighteen stories. The name has changed, it’s now the Resorts World Catskills casino, but the plan is the same, and the pace of construction is frantic.
On Monday, November 20, the first slot machines were rolled into this $1.2 billion entertainment complex, even as hundreds of workers were still putting in walls, wiring, cement and all the other basics required for a gigantic 5-star luxury resort. Reporters were given a lively tour of the huge facility by Charles Degliomini, Executive Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Corporate Communications for Empire Resorts, the parent company.
The slots — few of them have any arms these days — are just a slice of the action to be expected when the 100,000-square foot gaming floor opens to the public on March 1, 2018. (The complex will be 1.6-million-square-feet in total.) There will be 2,157 machines by then, along with 134 table games — blackjack, craps, Pai Gow, baccarat, poker, as well as roulette.
The machines are expected to earn about 40% of the casino’s revenues, and the rest will come from table games. Each machine comes "bonded" and sealed with a steel cable. That has to be cut, and the machine inspected to be absolutely certain that it hasn’t been tampered with.
While taking a tour of the facility, we got a taste of the lavishness that is being laid on here, and the global reach of the Resorts World development, which they expect will attract four million visitors per year. First, there’s the 350-room water park and hotel complex, which is also rising just a short distance away. You can see it from the upper floors of the main building. Then there’s the golf course, which is replacing the old "monster" course, with one designed to be more fun for the average golfer.
In fact, the numbers for this resort give you a quick idea of what to expect. Eventually, at full build out there will be 322 luxury suite rooms, of which 12 will be penthouse suites, 8 will be lower level garden suites, and 7 will be duplexes, described as "two story villas" with their own plunge pools, and close access to the two indoor swimming pools. There will also be a luxury spa and fitness center, of course.
A slew of restaurants will provide examples of the world’s most popular cuisines down a restaurant row leading away from the gaming floor. A particular emphasis will be laid on Asian fine dining, because the Asian market is seen as particularly important for this project.
At the top end of the restaurants will sit an Italian steakhouse created by celebrity chef Scott Conant. This restaurant will feature a private dining room, with windows into the kitchen so diners can watch their meals being prepped. Final note there, the windows fog up at the touch of a button!
There is an element of "shock and awe" when you consider the experience on offer to the "high rollers." Flying into Stewart Airport on their private jets, they will then ride helicopters up to the resort. There they will be ushered by hotel butler staff to private elevators to waft them to the penthouse suites, or they will head for their reserved two-story villa suites.
For these folks there will be private gambling salons. Waiting to serve them there will be their butler staff and card dealers who speak both Mandarin Chinese and the "Cantonese" dialect spoken in Hong Kong. At those tables there will be games of baccarat with $50,000 a hand, or more, riding on the outcome of a handful of cards. There will also be games of blackjack, $10,000 a position. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars will change hands in the course of single games in these private salons. This is termed a "Curated Gaming Experience."
The value of the High Rollers to the casino is demonstrated by a single statistic. Charlie Degliomini says about 70% of the hotel rooms will be given out free to customers known for their love of gambling and big spending ways.
The rest of those who will enjoy the casino experience, are the mass market, most of whom will play the slots, shoot some craps, maybe play some black jack or Pai Gow poker, and try one of the many exciting restaurants.
In addition, there’s the vast 27,000 square foot event space, that is being furbished for concerts and other major gatherings. With luxury boxes above and room for two to three thousand on the main floor, this will add a fantastic indoor arena for music and other kinds of shows in our area. Degliomini assured reporters on the tour that Resorts World has an agreement with Bethel Woods to be sure that their offerings complement each other and do not compete.
So, while the card dealer school is going well, by all accounts, in Ellenville, where students are learning how to deal blackjack and baccarat, and hundreds of union workers are completing the interior work, Degliomini contemplates an unforgiving schedule — he has to open the casino on March 1. He has to have most of the 2,000 new employees ready to go, from restaurant workers to maintenance people to the newly-minted card dealers waiting to deal out blackjack to an eager public. Degliomini is also pondering a supreme court decision coming next spring on whether states can allow sports betting — if they do, he’ll be ready with an area on the main gaming floor that could become the casino’s sports betting "parlor."
"This will be a four-season entertainment business," says Degliomini, "of the highest quality in every degree. We plan to have Conference Center business in midweek, major musical events and our weekends dedicated to the gaming public… A project of this significance hasn’t happened in my lifetime in this area."