The ears of all with a vested interest in the community of Nichols, NY were aimed at the proceedings of a state regulatory hearing held Tuesday afternoon, where members of the NY Gaming Commission were scheduled to determine the fate of the last private New York casino license.
For the last two years, Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural has fought hard to become the recipient of that fourth and final license, and his wish was finally granted yesterday as the Commission voted in favor the upcoming Tioga Downs Casino.
Regulators voted unanimously in favor of the new licensee, which will soon be rebranding itself as Tioga Downs Casino, Racing and Entertainment, following a $122.6 million project that will see the current race track converted into a full-fledged gambling resort.
Tioga Downs Casino Plans
The plans include a 32,590 square foot gaming floor complete with 1,000 slot machines and 50 gaming tables, plus a 161-room hotel to accommodate guests. The resort will feature a spa and multiple restaurants to suit all budgets. A new Tioga County Club will also be built as part of the resort destination.
Robert Williams, Executive Director of the State Gaming Commission, seemed eager to get the final New York casino project underway; not surprising as the facility is estimated to generate $32 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
“Tioga Downs’ expansion will foster hundreds of new jobs and spur much-needed economic development in the Southern Tier, plus generate millions of dollars for public schools and local governments, with all private money and no taxpayer dollars,” said Williams following the meeting.
Four New York Casinos Now Approved
In November 2013, voters chose to allow private, commercial casinos to open in New York, ending a long-standing gambling monopoly held by tribal operators. Regulators determined that four casino licenses could be awarded, but only to certain regions of the state, where they wouldn’t have a sizable impact on the revenue generated by existing tribal casinos.
Those licenses were awarded to del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre (Seneca County), Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady (Schenectady County), Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson (Sullivan County), and finally, Tioga Downs Casino, Racing and Entertainment in Nichols (Tioga County).
Tioga Downs immediately applied for a casino license as soon as regulators opened the bidding process, but was originally denied by the NY Gaming Facility Location Board, who wanted the state to cut the available number of licenses to three.
Gural wasn’t willing to back down, though. He and community officials throughout Tioga County continued lobbying for the right to host the fourth New York casino, and were so persuasive in their arguments that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo went to the Commission and asked them to reopen the licensing process.
At that point, with the other three licenses already having been granted, Tioga Downs was the only suitable candidate left to apply for a license in the Southern Tier; the last eligible location for a gambling license to be granted.
With Tioga Downs being the only applicant for the license, Tuesday’s affirmative response from the Commission came as little surprise, but much cause for celebration throughout the community, which stands to benefit greatly from new job opportunities, tourism and overall economic growth.