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Rochester developer sells stake in struggling del Lago casino

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TYRE, NY -- Another sign of a shake-up in the struggling Upstate New York casino industry: Rochester development firm Wilmorite is selling its 50-percent stake in the del Lago Resort Casino near Waterloo in the Finger Lakes.

Wilmorite, led by Rochester business executive Thomas Wilmot Sr., is selling its shares in the 2-year-old casino to the other 50-percent stakeholder, Peninsula Pacific LLC of California.

The news comes in the same week as the operator of Upstate’s largest casino, Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, announced it may consider filing bankruptcy.

They are two of the four large casinos built in the past three years in the state’s effort to boost the region’s economic outlook by allowing Vegas-style gambling in areas not covered by gaming compacts with Indian nations. The others are Tioga Downs near Binghamton and Rivers Casino Resort in Schenectady.

All four have struggled to meet the revenue projections they gave the state when seeking their licenses, though there has been some improvement this year.

In January, for the second straight year, Moody’s Investor Services downgraded del Lago’s credit rating and gave it a “negative” financial outlook. Moody’s cited lower than expected revenue growth and a crowded Upstate New York casino market as the reasons for del Lago’s woes.

The sale of the Wilmorite shares in del Lago to Peninsula was approved Thursday by the Tyre Town Board.

Peninsula Pacific chairman and managing partner M. Brent Stevens issued a statement putting a positive spin on the news:

“Yesterday, the Tyre Town Board unanimously approved a resolution that allows the Wilmot family to sell their equity shares in del Lago Resort & Casino,” Stevens said. "This will position Peninsula Pacific as the sole owner of the property and signals our further commitment to be the premier source of gaming and entertainment in the Finger Lakes region. The Wilmot family has been instrumental in the development of del Lago and we look forward to their continued support as leaders in the community.

“Since 2017, del Lago Resort & Casino has been proud to be part of the Seneca County and Finger Lakes community. We have created nearly two thousand direct and indirect jobs for local residents. We have been a gateway to the region, helping to increase tourism and providing a new revenue source for local governments. We look forward to continuing to be a good neighbor and a part of the fabric of the Finger Lakes region.”

Wilmot, who had unsuccessfully lobbied Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers for some financial concession for the casino last year, also issued a statement:

“We have tremendous pride in the development of del Lago Resort & Casino and the role we have played,” Wilmot said. "The transfer of corporate equity shares to Peninsula Pacific is an opportunity that will have long-term benefits for all owners, patrons, and the community. We selected Peninsula Pacific as a partner when the concept of del Lago originated, and we still have full confidence in the leadership.

“The Wilmot family has built long-term relationships with the staff and community and have been an integral part of the property. Del Lago Resort & Casino is good for our community – It has created employment opportunities, an entertainment destination and a new stream of revenue for the town and county. The continued success of del Lago is good for everyone in the Finger Lakes region.”

Wilmot had been the principal figure in the effort to bring one of the state’s new casinos to the region, first attempting to place it in Rochester and later settling on the Finger Lakes.

The four new “commercial” casinos, all with slots, table games, poker, hotels, event centers and other amenities, compete with seven large Indian-owned casinos across Upstate, including the Oneida Nation-owned Turning Stone in Vernon.

In the case of Resorts World Catskills, one option in its future is for its principal investor, Genting of Malaysia, to buy out the public shares of its operator, Empire Resorts. Genting could then take it private.

The state’s recent action to allow sports betting at the big Upstate casinos has been seen as one way to give the properties a boost -- the state allows betting for those physically at the casinos, but not online.

But neither del Lago nor Resorts World Catskills have yet opened their sports books. Sports betting has started at Rivers, Tioga Downs, Turning Stone and another Oneida nation casino, Point Place in Bridgeport.

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.

Read more https://www.newyorkupstate.com/casinos/2019/08/rochester-developer-sells-stake-in-struggling-del-lago-casino.html

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