New York grants three casino licenses; Atlantic City can’t pay Borgata tax refund

borgata-atlantic-city-tax-billNew York gaming regulators have unanimously approved licenses for three new casinos, defying skeptics who believe the already saturated northeast US casino market doesn’t need any more capacity.

Monday’s approval comes almost one year to the day that the New York State Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board announced that the three projects had been selected from 16 proposals submitted by hopeful operators.

On Monday, the Gaming Commission approved the three licenses without comment, noting only that none of the projects’ principals and associates appeared to be on the FBI’s most wanted list and that the applications had cleared their environmental, legal and financial hurdles.

The three projects are the (Genting Americas-controlled) Empire Resorts’ $630m Montreign Resort Casino in Sullivan county, Wilmorite/Peninsula Pacific’s $425m Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca county and Rush Street Gaming’s $300m Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady. The Lago venue is expected to open in H1 2017 while the other two won’t launch until the following year.

The state’s fourth casino project – an expansion of the existing Tioga Downs racetrack in New York’s Southern Tier – recently received siting board approval.

A little further south, the owners of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa casino have taken Atlantic City to court after the city failed to make a required $62m tax refund payment by the Sunday deadline. The casino has asked a judge to order the city to make with the money within 30 days or let the casino start seizing city property.

In 2013, the Tax Court of New Jersey ruled that the sharp decline in Atlantic City’s casino market meant the Borgata’s property assessment had shrunk from $2.26b to just $870m. As a result, the court declared that the Borgata had overpaid its tax bill by $48.8m in the 2009 and 2010 tax years.

The city admitted at the time that it had no idea where it would find the money. Worse, the Borgata says refunds owed for post-2010 tax years have pushed the city’s total outstanding bill to over $150m. Sounding a bit like Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally in the TV Christmas special, Borgata senior VP Joe Lupo insists that all the casino wants is what it has coming to it.

Lupo told the Associated Press that the casino was “simply asserting our rights as a taxpayer” and noted the city had somehow found the money to pay tax refunds to other AC casino operators. The Borgata is far and away AC’s top earner so perhaps AC figured that, if it couldn’t pay everyone, it should probably pay the city’s have-nots in order to avoid more closures.

If the city can’t make the payments, the option remains to declare bankruptcy (unless the Borgata would accept renaming the town Borgataville in lieu of a cash payment). If AC does choose this nuclear option, we really hope they somehow end up reneging on any debts owed to the city’s three Caesars Entertainment properties, because, you know, karma.