Contemplating Montreign's Rise...
THE CATSKILLS – First, a little history; it helps to get the whole picture.
In the aftermath of World War II, an obscure Chinese immigrant to Malaya by name of Lim Goh Tong got out of carpentry and into the used construction equipment business. He made a fortune and went on into iron mining, where he made another.
In 1958, a world away, the Monticello race track opened for harness racing.
About 1965, Lim Goh Tong conceived the idea of building a hotel casino complex on a hilltop in the Genting Highlands, about thirty miles north east of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of what had become Malaysia, and at that time a fast growing city of about three million. By that point he was a wealthy man and his Kien Huat construction firm had completed several huge projects in Malaysia.
In 2001 the New York state legislature okayed electronic slot machines at race tracks and in 2004 Monticello Casino and Raceway opened, owned by Empire Resorts.
In 2009 Kien Huat Realty III paid $55 million plus another $10 million in credits, to buy just under fifty percent of Empire Resorts, which at that time was close to bankruptcy. Kien Huat Realty is an investment arm of the Genting Berhad, a holding company that heads the enormous Genting Group of companies — a major presence in the worlds of global leisure, gambling, entertainment, cruise lines, construction, power generation and even palm oil plantations. The holding company has a market capitalization of about $15 billion; the total for the group is hard to measure, but most probably exceeds $50 billion.
In 2010 Genting New York won a bid to build a racino similar to what it had in Monticello at Aqueduct racecourse in New York City.
Move ahead to one month ago, when on December 17 Empire Resorts received one of three casino licenses from New York State to build a $750 million hotel casino resort complex on the site of the old Concord Hotel grounds in Thompson, near Monticello.
The casino, it is announced, will be the Montreign Hotel and Casino, and the resort will be the Adelaar.
Adelaar, by the way, is old Dutch for eagle.
To understand how the Adelaar will grow and function, just look at the Genting Highlands Resort, now Resorts World Genting (the first hotel currently called Theme Park Hotel), which is located in Malaysia's high mountains an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur, boasts the world's longest cable car, and has a total of five hotels including First World Hotel, which with 6,118 rooms held the Guinness World Record for huge hotels until 2013.
Lim Goh Tong's vision was clear: acquire land not too distant from a major urban center, build a luxury resort hotel, gain a gaming license for said hotel, expand activities around hotel to include golf, a waterpark, hiking, etc. and offer the stressed, overworked inhabitants of nearby major urban center a place for leisure, relief from stress and the chance to get outdoors and breathe country air. And, of course, gambling. The Genting Highlands complex holds the sole license for a casino (on land) in all of Malaysia and has proved to be a highly profitable vision.
Lim Goh Tong died in 2007, his second son Lim Kok Thay now heads the business, and the Kien Huat company is the controlling shareholder of Empire Resorts, Inc.
And so it will be in Thompson. The Adelaar plan highlights a Casino Resort and Entertainment Village with fine dining, "resort retail" and entertainment, plus an eighteen hole "Monster Golf Course" with clubhouse. Then there's a Family Resort Hotel, with indoor waterpark plus an event and conference center, zip lines, ropes course, and mountain coaster. There's also a "Sporting Club" sector, a lower density hotel and spa boasting "experiential-based hospitality," and resort homes. Finally, there will be the Village... with retail, service businesses, commercial properties, apartments, townhouses and residential lots.
Customers from New York City and environs can choose from a palette of leisure options. Family with kiddies? Then the Family Resort with waterpark, with dad able to slip off for some golf. Young couple without kids? Then outdoor activities, perhaps golf, and excitement in the evening at the Montreign's gaming tables, with relaxing spa treatments in the full spectrum spa. And shopping at the many resort-retail outlets with their many offerings.
The hotel, perhaps the first of many, will be an 18 story tower with 390 luxury rooms and suites. The structure will complement the 80,000 square foot casino space with its slot machines and gaming tables.
All of this is to be built in the next couple of years... Obviously a major undertaking, but not something to daunt the Genting group, which has built many hotel casino complexes before elsewhere in the world.
What can we in the region expect from this activity and the arrival of this huge hotel casino complex?
First there will be a surge of construction workers. According to real estate brokers in and around Monticello and Liberty, there isn't that much available in rental housing at present in Sullivan County. At this point no one seems sure how several hundred construction workers are going to find housing while they're here.
There is a good rental market in Middletown, and perhaps Ellenville and Wawarsing will benefit from this too.
While on the subject of housing, the resort envisions a couple of thousand employees, many of whom will likely come from outside the region. That also offers some upside to the still depressed housing market in the area.
Traffic will be increasing on Route 17 (Interstate 86) and quite possibly on routes 209 and 52 as well.
Commercial space along the major highways — and routes 17B, 52, 209, 42 and 55 — will be needed for businesses that will support the hotel casino resort, as well as restaurants and entertainment venues. Such space is at a premium already, so prices there will also rise.
Finally there are longer term possibilities. Many of the people who come to visit the Adelaar Resort will be exposed to our region for the first time. Some of them may come again, to explore it more thoroughly... and from them will come some who fall in love with our mountains and lakes, streams and forests and return in search of a second home, or perhaps even a first home and a move out of the densely populated areas of New York City and its swathe of suburbs.
So happens change, at least in its planning phases.