Southern Tier to Get Second Chance at New York Casino

on January 16, 2015
Southern Tier casino bidding reopened

Tioga Downs may be the leading candidate for a Southern Tier casino, but New York gaming officials say they’ll need to improve their proposal to earn a license. (Image: Tioga Downs)

The New York casino bidding process will now be reopened, but only for one specific area of the state that felt shafted by the first round of recommendations from the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board.

On Tuesday night, that panel announced that they would be open to hearing a new round of proposals from the Southern Tier, opening the possibility that a fourth casino could still be approved in upstate New York.

While no licenses have been issued yet, the Gaming Facility Location Board recommended that just three casino licenses out of a maximum of four should be awarded, due to fears over cannibalization of revenue from other locations and an increasingly saturated regional gambling market.

Their recommendations included giving a license to the Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes, which was in the same region as the Southern Tier; with only one license recommended for each region, Southern Tier casino projects were essentially rejected outright.

No Harm in Reopening Bidding Process, Says Law

That left residents and officials in the economically depressed area of the state feeling overlooked.

Initially, everyone from the gambling commission up through Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the decision would stick, but after intense lobbying from the region, they’ll now get a second chance at convincing the board that a casino in the rural area can work.

“I am sympathetic to the economic struggles of this region,” said Kevin Law, head of the Gaming Facility Location Board. “I do not see any harm in reissuing bids for this region.”

Heading into Tuesday’s meeting, many observers felt that the likely beneficiary of such a decision would be Jeff Gural, owner of Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs.

Gural had submitted what seemed to be the best proposal in the Southern Tier region, one that would see him expand Tioga Downs to include a fully-fledged casino and a hotel.

The only other local bid, made by Traditions at the Glen, even dropped their own plan to support Gural’s in order to show unity behind a single plan.

Panel Won’t Simply Approve Rejected Plans

But some statements made at the meeting suggest that Gural may have work to do if he wants to build that casino.

The board was clear that they would be very unlikely to approve any plans that had previously been rejected, and that they were open to new proposals, even from those who didn’t initially show interest in the Southern Tier.

“There would have to be modifications to them if they were so inclined to rebid,” Law said of previous proposals, such as the one at Tioga Downs.

“Hopefully, there will be multiple bids to choose from,” said Dennis Glazer, a member of the panel. “But it should be made clear that a recommendation of no additional licenses is a possibility.”

Gural was present at the meeting, and appeared to be receptive to the board’s comments. However, he also expressed some uncertainty about exactly what the panel wanted to see in his proposal.

“I want to try to do what they want,” said Gural. “But I thought I had a good proposal to begin with.”

The owners of Tioga Downs and Traditions at the Glen have pledged to work together in order to strengthen the bid at the racetrack, with the two planning a joint news conference on Friday to discuss their plans