Louis Cappelli, Who Bought th Bankrupt Concord Resort Hotel
|By Steve Israel, The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 10, 2004 - MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- Two of the region's biggest dealmakers aim to cut one of the hottest deals to hit the Catskills.
Robert Berman, whose company owns the racino at Monticello Raceway, and Louis Cappelli, who owns the Concord Resort Hotel, are cooking up a deal that could mean two Indian casinos for Sullivan County.
According to three sources with knowledge of the talks, it would work like this:
--Berman's company, Empire Resorts, would buy the Concord.
--The track's newest partner, the Seneca Cayugas of Oklahoma, would open a casino at the Concord.
--The Raceway's former partner, the New York Cayugas, would return to the track and open a casino that recently seemed near federal approval -- until the deal was derailed when talks between the tribe and state fell apart.
Berman and an Empire official did not return two calls.
Cappelli refused to comment.
But the lawyer for the New York Cayugas acknowledged that the tribe has resumed talks with the track. They still have an exclusive deal for a Raceway casino.
"We have had some discussions," said Martin Gold, who refused to elaborate.
Cayuga spokesman Scott Wood did not return three phone calls.
But Wood, who was in New York this week, has said the Concord could be a casino site.
Still, when it comes to any of the three Catskill casinos allowed by law, the odds are steep.
A top state official has said the federal government would only OK an off-reservation casino if it's part of a land claim settlement. The Seneca Cayugas of Oklahoma say they would give up their share of a $247 million land claim judgment in exchange for a casino – and pay the state at least that amount.
But the New York Cayugas, who originally filed that claim, have said they won't agree to a settlement that involves the Seneca Cayugas. They don't have a reservation but are based in western New York.
The odds may be steeper, given the local track records of Berman and Cappelli.
Cappelli may be Westchester's top developer, but four years after he broke ground on the Concord, the former jewel of the Catskills is a crumbling shell of its former self.
Berman may have been one of the country's first developers to try to build an Indian casino away from a reservation, but he's come up empty with four tribes.
That's why one local official who's heard talk of the deal is skeptical.
"You can talk the talk," said Sullivan County Manager Dan Briggs, "but you've still got to walk the walk."
ART OF THE DEAL MAKERS:
--January 1999: Buys bankrupt Concord Resort Hotel for $10.25 million.
--October 2000: Holds groundbreaking ceremony at Concord for a new world-class resort.
--January 2001: Dazzles county legislators with plans for the $237 million resort – and a swatch of the bedspreads.
--May 2001: Announces management agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the company that runs the Westin chain. Renovations will start in August 2001.
--October 2001: State passes law allowing three Indian casinos in Catskills.
--February 2002: Cappelli says plans are on hold until he determines what will happen with casinos.
--May 2003: Cappelli says he's in "casual" talks with the New York Oneidas for a Concord casino.
--December 2003: Meets with Seneca Nation of New York about casino.
--November 2004: In talks with Robert Berman about purchase of Concord for Seneca Cayuga casino.
--March 1995: Berman's company, Watermark Investments, announces plans to open Oneida Nation of New York casino at Monticello Raceway.
--October 1995: Watermark parts with the Oneidas and teams with the St. Regis Mohawks.
--April 2000: The Bureau of Indian Affairs tentatively approves the Mohawks' land trust application for a Raceway casino.
--April 2000: Park Place Entertainment takes over the management of Mohawk casino and switches to Kutsher's Sports Academy.
--October 2000: Berman reneges on $1.4 million in taxes on a housing development.
--April 2003: Raceway management signs casino development deal with Cayuga Nation of New York.
--February 2004: Investment banking firm Jefferies and Co. raises $30 million for construction of Monticello Raceway racino; will raise a half-billion for Cayuga casino.
--June 2004: Gov. George Pataki announces tentative land claim settlement and casino deal with Cayugas.
--June 2004: Raceway opens racino with 1,800 slot-like video lottery terminals.
--August 2004: State and Cayugas say land claim settlement and casino deal are dead.
--August 2004: Raceway partners with Seneca Cayugas.
--November 2004: Berman talks to Cappelli about buying Concord, which would host Seneca Cayuga casino. Talks to Cayugas about returning to track.
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