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Resorts World Catskills Eager To Open Feb. 8, But The Reception Could Be Chilly

scissors cutting red ribbon

When people talk about the Catskills, it is usually harkening back to the good ole days. In pop culture, Dirty Dancing and other films helped cement the upstate New York town’s status as the resort location which peaked in the 1950s.

In just one week, Resorts World Catskills will try and rebrand the Catskills as a new and hot place for New Yorkers to get away. The giant, modern casino hopes to be the resort young people come to visit, not the resort their grandparents used to go to every summer.

Catskills entering tough, if not unbeatable, market per Moody’s

The positive spin on the Resorts World Catskills opening is that it came early. Thanks to speedy construction, the property managed to move up the grand opening three weeks.

Now for the bad news.

First, there is the fact that, while the casino is the largest of the upstate commercial NY casinos, it is also a year behind the competition. This time last year, both del Lago and Rivers Schenectady opened their doors. They’ve certainly struggled since then, but first-to-market advantage is always important.

And that struggling is something Resorts World Catskills will likely deal with as well. There are numerous op-eds, reports, and insider analysis suggesting there are simply too many casinos in the Empire State.

The latest comes from credit agency Moody’s. Shortly after downgrading del Lago’s credit rating, the group issued another report warning about the instability of the NY casino industry.

While revenues were up last year overall for the industy, Moody’s is still concerned. The biggest red flag is the very flat growth of the three new upstate casinos. Unlike, say, the New Jersey online casino industry, which started out low before revenues propelled upward, growth at these New York is very slow. The report did note this trend isn’t exclusive to New York though. It is happening across the nation.

In the report, Moody’s addressed Resorts World Catskills specifically. While the outlook is not wholly negative, the optimism is tepid at best:

“Similar to the challenges facing del Lago and Rivers, the success of Resorts World relies on growing the gaming market and attracting players from the existing competitors. However, unlike del Lago and Rivers, Resorts World has the downstate portion of New York as one of its primary market areas because it will be located within a reasonable driving distance from the densely populated New York metro area. That said, like del Lago, we expect Resorts World will be entering a very tough gaming market.”

Resorts World Catskills thinks it is in better shape than the rest

Resorts World Catskills public relations manager Talya Shlang told the press why she thinks the property will be different:

“This is not a typical regional casino. We have more of a high-end, curated experience than you’ll find at other casinos. We have amenities you won’t find in other places. And we have a special focus on Asian-American customers others don’t have.”

Shlang is correct that the casino is catering to a very high-end clientele. It needs big bucks considering the $1.2 billion price tag on the property. Some of the features of the new casino include:

  • 100,000 square-foot gaming floor
  • 2,150 slot machines
  • 130 table games
  • Poker room

That is just the casino, too. The gaming area is just part of a 1.6 million square-foot resort. There is also an 18-story hotel tower, two fitness centers, two pools, and a spa.

The Catskills also has the geographic advantage over its peers, as Moody’s noted. Just 90 miles from Manhattan, Resorts World is hoping to appeal to the large Asian American population in New York City.

Don’t forget about Sands Bethlehem though

However, while there is no closer resort casino to Manhattan in New York, Resorts World will have to contend with a major player in Pennsylvania. Sands Bethlehem Casino is 10 miles closer to Manhattan and already has a loyal customer following.

What will be interesting to see though is how Resorts World and Sands, two brands with a major presence in Asia, will do in this new head-to-head battle to capture the Big Apple market.

Jessica Welman

About

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.