Times Herald-Record

State Sen. John Bonacic says he plans to introduce casino legislation possibly by next week that would make Sullivan County and the Catskills first in line to get a casino.

“I can tell you Sullivan is first,” said Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, on Tuesday. “The regions are a work in progress but the Catskills are first.”

Bonacic, chairman of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming & Wagering Committee, would introduce bills to amend the state constitution and a second bill that defines where the casinos would be located and a schedule.

“I would like to see the first one open Jan. 1, 2014, in Sullivan County,” Bonacic said.

Without naming the company, Bonacic did allude to Empire Resorts’ planned racino and hotel project at the Concord in the Town of Thompson as a potential site.

“They have a facility they could put it in,” he said.

Bonacic said he opposes putting casinos near the Mohawk and Seneca territory, which would eliminate much of western and northern New York. He’s also against any New York City location other than Queens, where Aqueduct’s Resorts World Casino is located.

Last year, lawmakers passed an amendment to allow up to seven casinos statewide. Second passage is needed to trigger a statewide referendum this November.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers have disagreed on how to proceed. Cuomo wants to empower an appointed commission to select operators and casino sites. The governor told the Daily News in March he favors rolling out three upstate casinos north of Putnam County first, and then allowing a gap of several years before permitting others.

Bonacic believes the locations need to be defined “for transparency” or the referendum could be defeated. He said lawmakers aren’t interested in picking the operators but voters need to know the regions “to vote intelligently.”

The Catskills has several potential sites.

Empire Resorts says its project isn’t dependent on gaining a license. “Like everyone else, we are watching Albany’s gaming discussion with great interest, but we are already on our way to making a $600 million investment at the site of the former Concord that will provide over 1,000 new permanent jobs and 1,200 union construction jobs,” Empire’executive vice president, Charlie Degliomini, said.

Nevele Hotel owner Michael Treanor said is pleased Bonacic is forging ahead.

“I would be very interested to have priority given to upstate,” Treanor said. “The Catskill region would benefit greatly from casinos.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Muss family, Manhattan real estate magnates who own 500 acres around the former Grossinger’s resort in Liberty, are talking to potential casino operators.