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Ahead of schedule, behind in earnings? Inside big Catskill casino's first weeks

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Ahead of schedule, behind in earnings? Inside big Catskill casino's first weeks

MONTICELLO, NY -- It's the biggest of the new Upstate New York full-service casinos, but state financial records show it may have had the smallest opening.

Resorts World Catskills, the $1.2 billion gaming and event complex located off Route 17, opened Feb. 8, more than a month ahead of schedule. That meant it opened with just a third of its hotel rooms and a handful of its dining options. Some gambling offerings -- like the poker room and private gaming salons -- weren't operating yet, either.

Report: New Catskills casino opens in 'tough' market

"We're open, but we don't have all the pistons in the engine," said Charlie Degliomini, executive vice president for the casino's owner, Empire Resorts. 

That could explain Resorts World Catskills' slow start in earning: Gaming revenues for its opening weeks in February failed to match the numbers put up by two other full-service Upstate casinos -- del Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes and Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady -- when they opened in February 2017.

The Catskills resort, just off Route 17 near Monticello,  also didn't earn as much as either of those casinos did in a side-by-side comparison of the final weeks of this February, according to records compiled by the New York State Gaming Commission.

Resorts World Catskills opened amid mounting concerns that the Upstate New York casino market is saturated. The three full-service non-Indian owned casinos that opened in recent years -- del Lago, Rivers and the smaller Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier -- collectively earned about $200 million less in their first year than they had projected when they applied for state licenses. 

As a result, there's a lot of attention paid to the state gaming commission reports on what are called  "gross gambling revenue." That's what a casino keeps after winnings are paid out, but before taxes and operating expenses.

Here's a comparison of Resorts World Catskills revenues with del Lago and Rivers:

First two-plus weeks of opening:

Resorts World Catskills: $8.7 million (February 2018)

Del Lago: $9.3 million (February 2017)

Rivers: $10.3 million (February 2017).

Direct comparison of final two full weeks of February 2018:

Resorts World Catkills: $5.3 million

Del Lago: 6.8 million

Rivers: $6.5 million

Resorts World opened in February with 2,151 slot machines and 112 table games, plus about one third of its hotel rooms and two dining options.

Resorts World Catskills expects to open more of its features by the end of March and into April, Degliomini said. The poker room opened this week, and two restaurants should open in coming weeks. Eventually there will be 10 or more dining options.

Also still to come are Resorts World's private gaming salons, which aim to provide "high roller' customers with what the casino calls a "curated" gaming experience unlike its Upstate competitors.

"So all in all, it's inaccurate to look strictly at the numbers so far," Degliomini said. "We didn't plan to open until March. So this is, literally, found money. We didn't even budget for it. Wait and see what happens when we get this engine fully running."

Analysts who believe the Upstate casino market is saturated say Resorts World does have several advantages: It is closer to the big New York City market than the others and is geared to attract a significant numberof Asian and Asian-American clients. (Its gaming floor features several tables popular with Asian gamblers and much of its staff speaks Mandarin and other Asian languages).

It also has a solid international gambling pedigree: Resorts World Catskills is owned by Empire Resorts, which also operates the nearby Monticello Raceway, a racino that combines harness racing and slots. The majority shareholder of Empire Resorts is K.T. Lim, a billionaire Malaysian gaming magnate. He is chairman of the Genting Group, operator of casinos and resorts around the world -- including those under the Resorts World name. In this case, Empire Resorts is the owner, and it is operating as a Resorts World under a license with Genting.

There's also more to come: A Rees Jones-designed golf course is under development and a  family-friendly  indoor waterpark will soon be under construction. Both should open in 2019.

Peek inside the new Resorts World Catskills

Don Cazentre writes about Upstate NY casinos for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach him at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or follow him at NYup.com, on Twitter or Facebook.

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