Catskills Resort Buyer Hoping to Build Casino

Nevele Grande Hotel potential rival to New York tracks in bid for expanded gaming.

The sale of a former destination resort complex in the Catskills region of New York has been finalized, with its new owners hoping to become casino operators if the state legalizes expanded gambling ventures next year.

A limited liability company run by longtime gambling industry executives has closed on the purchase of the 500-acre Nevele Grande Hotel and Country Club in the town of Wawarsing about 90 miles north of Manhattan.

A spokesman for the purchase group said the hotel complex sold for $2 million plus assumption of $20 million in debt. Nevele Investors LLC has said it anticipates a $500 million investment in the property to turn it into a full-scale casino resort.

The Catskills’ venture is one of a number of casino wish-list sites to surface since state officials last year began seriously exploring the idea of expanding into full-blown, Las Vegas-style casinos on non-Indian lands.

The Legislature in March approved a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to permit up to seven privately owned casinos with gambling, such as table games, now banned except at Indian-run casinos. The measure would have to be approved by the next session of the Legislature, which could be next year; the earliest voters would have a chance to consider the idea in a statewide referendum is November 2014.

But the race is already on by potential casino suitors. All the state’s racetracks currently operating VLT-only casinos are hoping to get approved for the expanded gambling halls if a referendum makes it to voters and passes. But there are nine such track casinos now, meaning at least two tracks would be left out even under the most ambitious of plans. Cuomo has already expressed doubts about focusing the gambling expansion at racetracks because he does not, sources say, view them as destination spots for what could be lucrative revenue generators for the state.

Meanwhile, there are efforts and chatter about full-scale casinos being eyed at everywhere from Aqueduct Racetrack to Willets Point in Queens. Other insiders say there is a push by some to develop a top-shelf, pricey admission casino in Manhattan. One lawmaker this week even speculated on what he called a longshot plan: Governor’s Island, located between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The Nevele sale comes complete with expensive plans to save or redevelop a number of historic features at the once-famous resort. It was closed in 2009 after more than 100 years in business.

“It’s a first step in realizing our vision for a redeveloped Nevele resort and revitalized Catskills region,” said Michael Treanor, chief executive officer of Nevele Investors LLC.

The firm is a subsidiary of Claremont Partners Limited, whose principles include Treaner and Larry Woolf, who over the past 40 years in the industry has run a number of major Las Vegas casino hotels.