Idyllic Philippine Resort Island of Boracay Is Closed to Tourists


Resort owners say the government promised a system that would treat waste and runoff, and pump it far out to sea. What they got instead, they say, was an inadequate treatment system, with many properties illegally tapped into it, that dumps wastewater just off the island’s eastern shore, at Bulabog Beach, an area famed for its wind- and kite-surfing.

Video of black water gushing out of a pipe there, while a kite surfer passed in the background, drew widespread attention this year. Mr. Duterte seized on it to begin a series of blistering verbal attacks on development on Boracay.

Saying the water “smells,” and employing other, more colorful words, Mr. Duterte ordered officials in the environment, tourism and interior departments to undertake a cleanup. So far, the government has not signaled what it will do to fix the problem, or when.

“We want the government to help us,” said Ms. Graf, who operates the Boracay Beach Resort on the western side of the island. But closing the island, she said, “is another matter altogether. We don’t want that.”

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“Closure means the end of jobs,” she said, asking how local workers were “going to eat in the next six months.” She predicted that it would have ripple effects across the entire Philippine economy.

“You close us down, and we will likely not recover from it,” she added. “Tourism in Asia is very competitive.”

Boracay’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked Mr. Duterte to reconsider, arguing that not all businesses are violators, and that those found to be polluting should instead be cut off from the water supply.

The proposed casino site is on the less developed, eastern side of the island, and to make way for the project, local landowners say they were forced to sell their property at below-market prices. Some of the houses there have already been torn down, and a “no trespassing” sign warns away visitors.

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Australians Are the World’s Biggest Gambling Losers, and Some Seek Action


“Often, Australians don’t realize it,” she said of the ubiquity of the machines. “It’s like being a fish in water.”

Their operators are often prominent community entities: Woolworths, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, is the biggest operator of pokies in the country, controlling about 12,000 machines through its majority stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, a large company that encompasses bars, restaurants and wagering.

Though the Woolworths Group doesn’t distinguish liquor sales from gambling revenues in its annual report, estimates suggest that it pulls more than 1 billion Australian dollars, or $770 million, in revenue from the machines each year.

Other community mainstays also operate machines. In Victoria, the heartland of Australian Rules Football, 90 percent of Australian Football League teams operate their own pokies, generating more than 93 million Australian dollars in revenue last year.

Pokies are regulated on a state-by-state basis, instead of by the federal government. Western Australia is the only state or territory that bans the operation of pokies outside casinos.

State budgets are increasingly made up of revenues from the machines, and legalized gambling, including from pokies, accounted for 7.7 percent of total tax revenues for Australian states and territories in 2016. In some parts of Australia, gamers can deposit 7,500 Australian dollars into a machine in one transaction, and can lose more than a thousand dollars per hour.

A study conducted by Dr. Rintoul comparing two regions outside Melbourne found that the less wealthy one had twice as many pokie machines, and more than three times the per capita losses.

“The people who can least afford to be losing large sums of money are losing the most,” she said.

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A “gamblers help line” sign in the men’s restroom at a gaming venue. In a country that has confronted other powerful industries — mandating graphic warnings on cigarette packages and cracking down on guns, for example — some wonder why gambling has escaped tougher regulation.

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Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Dr. Rintoul described the casino-like methods used by venues to maximize revenue, including rewarding patrons with free food and drinks, and hiring part-time models as wait staff.

A visit to one gaming floor at a venue in Sunshine, the region Dr. Rintoul’s study focused on, revealed a busy gaming floor one recent Wednesday night. Gamblers placed “RESERVED” signs under their machines of choice, which Dr. Rintoul said reflected how frequent gamblers come to relate to the machines: picking favorites, and believing that a particular one can get “hot” or due for a win.

A few hours later, in Balaclava, a suburb on the opposite side of Melbourne, patrons filled the gaming room at an Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group venue open until 6 a.m. A large Woolworths supermarket across the road keeps foot traffic in the area high.

“We regularly had people tell us that they often ended up in a gambling venue even when they weren’t intending to gamble when they left the house,” Dr. Rintoul said.

In February, Andrew Wilkie, an independent Australian politician, published leaked documents from two whistle-blowers at Australian Leisure and Hospitality revealing that the company had been secretly collecting data on frequent gamblers, including their favorite sporting teams, their relationship statuses and when they had the most money to spend.

Gordon Cairns, the chairman of Woolworths, said that the company was “very concerned” about the revelations and that the matter was being reviewed by external auditors.

In a country that has confronted other powerful industries by mandating graphic warnings on cigarette packages and cracking down on guns, some wonder why gambling has escaped tougher regulation. Critics say politicians are increasingly afraid to confront the growing influence of the gambling lobby.

The Rev. Tim Costello, a spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, compares pro-gambling bodies to the National Rifle Association in the United States in their ability to sway politicians.

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In Australia, the businesses that house pokie machines usually resemble typical English pubs, replete with bars and dining areas, but with the addition of a dedicated gaming room.

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Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Australians, he said, “say Americans have a blind spot on guns.”

“Here, we have a blind spot on pokies,” he added.

Pro-gambling groups frequently refer to Mr. Costello and other gambling opponents as “prohibitionists,” and are quick to point to support services they have developed for frequent gamers. They also argue that tighter regulation of pokies would lead to huge job losses at the venues that operate them.

The groups have increasingly flexed their muscles in state elections. Anti-gambling candidates who ran in Tasmania and South Australia this year faced a barrage of negative advertising from pro-gambling bodies.

In the run-up to the South Australian election, the Australian Hotels Association — which counts Australian Leisure and Hospitality as a member — donated to several opponents of Nick Xenophon, an independent whose new party, S.A.-BEST, vowed to cut in half the number of pokies per venue, and institute smaller betting limits. After positive early campaign polling, Mr. Xenophon and his party ultimately failed to win a single lower-house seat. It was the first election loss of Mr. Xenophon’s 20-year career.

“How much influence they wield, it’s unhealthy,” said Frank Pangello, Mr. Xenophon’s media adviser in the recent election.

“They bought an election in Tasmania, they bought one in South Australia,” Mr. Pangello added. “They’re like the N.R.A. in America: You take them on, they’ll crush you.”

The Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group declined to comment for this article or discuss whether it spent money on the Tasmanian and South Australian state elections. The hotels group did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Costello said that with governments so dependent on gambling revenues, it may be difficult to pass tighter regulation of pokies.

“The states are Dracula in charge of the blood bank,” he said.

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Square Feet: In the Catskills, New Hope for the Return of Tourism


Developers are working on or have completed a string of resort and hotel projects, including a gleaming new yoga retreat, a converted former furniture store and a renovated lakeside boardinghouse.

It is contributing to a small but significant increase in the number of hotel rooms, according to the Sullivan County Visitors Association.

After remaining flat for more than a decade, the number of rooms has jumped 25 percent in the past few years and now totals 2,100 across about 50 properties, the association said.

But that seems like a sliver of what existed in the mid-20th century, the borscht belt era memorialized by the movie “Dirty Dancing.”

Indeed, in the early 1950s, there were more than 500 hotels in the area, plus 2,500 bungalow colonies, including some in neighboring Ulster County, according to historical accounts.

Hotel proponents have also pointed to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the performance space that opened in 2006 on part of the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. The center drew 265,000 guests in 2017, a spokeswoman said, and some of those music fans were presumably looking for places to spend the night.

Few seem willing to go out on a limb and predict that the revived hospitality business will lead to widespread growth. After all, the county’s comeback has been heralded before.

But the signs of progress can seem heartening. “We’re just at the beginning of this,” said Marc Baez, the president of the Partnership for Economic Development in Sullivan County, a nonprofit organization that lends to small businesses and matches developers with land and tax-incentive packages.

And yet, “there’s a certain different mood when you drive around the county, from the average resident up into the business community,” Mr. Baez added.

Much of the optimism seems to focus on jobs. Though it has dropped considerably in recent years, the county’s jobless rate in January was 6 percent, versus 4.1 percent in Manhattan.

That rate could dip further because of Resorts World Catskills, whose site was owned in recent years by the Concord Resort Hotel, a once-grand getaway that has been razed. Of the 1,000 people who work at Resorts World, which is connected to an 18-story, 332-room hotel, about 600 are from Sullivan County, said Ryan Eller, the chief executive of Empire Resorts, the owner.

And when other hotels and amenities like an indoor water park and a golf course open on the property by spring 2019, resulting in a total of about 800 rooms, the $1.2 billion project will employ about 2,200 people, Mr. Eller said.

But jobs could be in jeopardy if business falters, critics say. And the casino may have competition.

Other casinos awarded gambling licenses since 2014 to help stimulate their upstate communities include Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, about 120 miles away, and Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, about the same distance. Resorts World even owns a casino in Queens.

Mr. Eller said the competitors did not offer the same family-friendly amenities. “This goes beyond pure gaming,” he added.

But casinos in New York State have suffered from lower-than-expected revenue.

On a weekday afternoon in March, the parking lot at Resorts World Catskills had about 200 cars but was not full. Mr. Eller declined to share attendance figures but said snowy weather was probably dampening totals. “We’re pleased with the amount of visitation that we’ve seen,” he said.

The county has been generous with tax incentives. Officials defend them as necessary to attract business.

But the property tax breaks phase out over time, said Subhash Chandra, the chairman of Essel Group, a company based in India that is developing Yo1 Wellness Center, a 350,000-square-foot, 131-room complex on Baileys Lake.

The $165 million project, which is to open in May, is expected to create 200 full-time jobs, said Mr. Chandra, who considered sites in Massachusetts and on Long Island before arriving upstate.

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A billboard on Route 17 in Thompson, N.Y., advertising Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club, which closed in 2013. The 1,400-acre property once occupied by the resort will eventually have a convention center with its own hotel.

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Eva Deitch for The New York Times

Named for the Sanskrit word for “youth,” Yo1 will offer yoga, acupuncture and meditation classes, Mr. Chandra said. Situated on a slice of the former Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club, a popular borscht belt resort that closed in 2013, Yo1 is just a piece of Mr. Chandra’s development plans for the huge property.

Eventually, the 1,400-acre site will have a convention center with its own hotel. And that center will repurpose three Kutsher’s buildings that Mr. Chandra left standing when he otherwise cleared the site, including a racquetball complex. “Our theory is that nothing is permanent in life,” he said.

By emphasizing wellness, as opposed to shuffleboard and stand-up comedy, Yo1 brings the region’s tourism back to its origins, said John Conway, Sullivan County’s historian.

Beginning in the 1830s, the county was a refuge for city dwellers seeking a healthier environment, especially to rebound from tuberculosis, Mr. Conway said. Those visitors stayed in rustic retreats and engaged in activities like fishing, he added.

It was not until after World War II that the all-inclusive, and indoor-focused, resorts sprang up, he added. “This was the ‘fortress hotel’ that became the standard for Las Vegas casinos,” Mr. Conway said.

It’s the period before the borscht belt that informs Sims Foster, a co-founder of Foster Supply Hospitality, which owns four small hotels in the more-rural western part of the county, where Mr. Foster grew up.

All the buildings were existing and extensively renovated after being purchased, like the DeBruce, a 14-room lodging that opened last year in Livingston Manor on Willowemoc Creek. It features a dining room with hemlock tables and a wood stove, but also an optional nine-course tasting menu.

“Building a new building on top of the hill is going to make everybody nervous,” Mr. Foster said. Other locations include the Nine River Road, on the Delaware River in Callicoon, an 1880s former furniture store that is now an eight-room hotel.

Mr. Foster, who works with his wife, Kirsten Harlow Foster, is at work on a fifth property, a former boardinghouse in Kenoza Lake that will have 17 rooms. Twelve cabins will also be offered on the 55-acre property when it opens in 2019, he said.

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A water park and more hotel rooms are being built on the Resorts World Catskills property.

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Eva Deitch for The New York Times

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Kirsten Harlow Foster and Sims Foster in the restaurant of the DeBruce Inn, a hotel they own in Livingston Manor, N.Y.

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Eva Deitch for The New York Times

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A staircase at the DeBruce leads to 14 guest rooms. The Fosters’ company, Foster Supply Hospitality, owns three other small hotels in western Sullivan County. A fifth is in the works.

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Eva Deitch for The New York Times

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The DeBruce this month. The Fosters’ extensively renovated it and their other properties after buying them.

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Eva Deitch for The New York Times

Hotel developers say some benefits will be indirect. After being introduced to the area, guests could be inspired to buy second homes, they say. Already, weekenders have helped revitalize the commercial districts in places like Narrowsburg and Livingston Manor, whose tiny downtowns have a vibrant mix of bistros and housewares shops.

Buying a weekend retreat certainly would not be a new trend. As it is, the population of 70,000 in Sullivan County almost doubles when weekenders are counted, Mr. Baez said. Some part-timers even live in old-time bungalow colonies that went co-op years ago.

But there may be room to grow, said Dawn J. Curreri, the owner of the Eagle Valley Realty. Prices for single-family houses, which average about $200,000, still have not surpassed their prerecession levels, Ms. Curreri said.

And if anything, the new hotels, with workers from elsewhere in some cases, seem to be stimulating the rental market. “It’s too early to tell” what the effect of the new tourism infrastructure will be, Ms. Curreri added.

“But there are a lot of really good things happening in the entire county,” she said, “and they’re all positive.”

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Steve Wynn Agrees to Sell Entire Stake in His Casino Company


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Steve Wynn resigned last month as the C.E.O. of Wynn Resorts, the casino and hotel company he founded more than 16 years ago.

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Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Steve Wynn, the former chief executive of Wynn Resorts, has agreed to sell all of his remaining eight million shares in the firm, in a swift exit of the casino and hotel company he founded more than 16 years ago.

Separately, the Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment agreed to buy 5.3 million shares of Wynn Resorts at $175 a share, giving it a stake of around 5 percent in the operator, which has resorts in Las Vegas and Macau.

Galaxy is one of six licensed operators in the world’s largest gambling hub of Macau, and competes with Wynn, Sands China, MGM China and Melco Resorts.

Mr. Wynn’s share sale comes a week after Wynn Resorts said he and his former wife, Elaine Wynn, who has a 9.26 percent stake, had scrapped a shareholder agreement that prevented them from selling their stakes.

Mr. Wynn resigned last month as chief executive of the company, based in Las Vegas, following claims that he had subjected women who worked for him to unwanted sexual advances. He has denied the accusations.

In a joint statement by Galaxy and Mr. Wynn on Wednesday, Galaxy’s vice chairman, Francis Lui, said it was an opportunity to “acquire an investment in a globally recognized entertainment corporation with exceptionally high quality assets and a significant development pipeline.”

A Galaxy spokeswoman could not comment further on whether Galaxy would look to increase its holding in the future.

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James Packer, Australian Billionaire, Resigns From Casino Company


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James Packer “intends to step back from all commitments,” his investment company said.

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Ted Aljibe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SYDNEY, Australia — James Packer, a colorful Australian billionaire who has found himself embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Israel’s prime minister, has resigned as a director of Crown Resorts, the casino company that is a source of much of his wealth.

In a statement, Crown cited “personal reasons” for his departure without giving further details. But Consolidated Press Holdings, an investment company owned and controlled by Mr. Packer, said in a statement that “Mr. Packer is suffering from mental health issues.”

“At this time,” the company said, “he intends to step back from all commitments.”

Mr. Packer is one of Australia’s richest men, a globe-trotting billionaire who had been engaged to Mariah Carey, formed a film-production company with Brett Ratner in Hollywood — and most recently became entangled in a corruption investigation involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

According to the police in Israel, expensive cigars, jewelry and pink champagne flowed into the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence — and one of the patrons was Mr. Packer, who has said he was only giving Mr. Netanyahu what he demanded.

The case is still under investigation.

Recently, Mr. Packer has been shedding assets. In December, Crown sold a vacant Las Vegas lot where it had intended to build a major casino. A month ago, Mr. Packer sold off more than 100 million Australian dollars, about $75 million American, of his own shares in Crown.

After that sale, his remaining stake was valued at more than 4 billion Australian dollars.

Mr. Packer, 50, owns about 47 percent of Crown, the biggest listed casino company outside China, via Consolidated Press Holdings.

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