Times Herald-Record – On a day many in Sullivan County feared would never arrive, the Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar received its state license Monday to operate a casino in the county.

The New York State Gaming Commission made it official at 2:39 p.m., with several county and state officials crowding the state meeting room a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal.

The license means that Montreign can obtain financing and issue contracts to start construction of the casino on 1,700 acres just outside Monticello. It can now hire the 1,000 or more workers needed to build it, although it has already begun extensive site and excavation work on the site just off Route 17 Exit 106. The license requires Montreign to open within two years.

Since Gaming Commission Executive Director Rob Williams said construction must start no later than March 16, 2016, that puts Montreign on track to open in early 2018, at the latest.

“You should see foundation work starting early in January, unless the tundra approaches,” said Manny Pearlman, chairman of the board of directors of Empire Resorts, which will run Montreign.

“Christmas has come early to the Catskills,” added Charlie Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire.

Even though the casino seemed like a sure thing since last December, when the state chose Montreign as the only casino in the Hudson Valley/Catskills region, many in the county were skeptical this day would ever come, especially because Sullivan has been jilted by more casino schemes than most anyone can count.

That long journey was mentioned by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, whose late Assemblyman husband, Jake, lobbied for a casino at least two decades ago.

“The people of Sullivan County have exemplified patience,” she said. “Forty years and countless stops and starts, but today, we’re realizing the dream of generations … .”

The bumpy journey is also why the casino means more than the jobs it will create, or the approximately $10.3 million in casino revenue that will be split annually between Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Greene and Columbia counties – along with another $10.3 split between Sullivan and the host Town of Thompson. (Montreign also must give the state its $50 million license fee, along with an extra $1 million it agreed to pay.)

“It changes the whole attitude of the community,” said Scott Samuelson, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature. “Other projects that were waiting for this should start moving. It’s just so huge.”

Montreign received its license with the two other upstate casinos chosen Dec. 17, 2014 – the Lago Resort Casino in Seneca County and Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady.