The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board is backing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s suggestion that a fourth casino licence should be awarded, allowing for a tender for the ‘true’ Southern Tier region.
The board voted 5-0 to prepare a new request for a tender to be launched specifically for the Southern Tier. Four casino licenses were originally approved for New York’s three state regions: the Albany-Saratoga area, the mid-Hudson Valley and Catskills region, and the Finger Lakes-Southern Tier. The board recommended licenses for projects in the Catskills, Schenectady and the Finger Lakes but withheld the fourth license.
New York State Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Geran said: “The intent of the gaming statute was to benefit economically distressed Upstate areas experiencing high levels of unemployment. Clearly, the Southern Tier meets this criterion. A process to generate new proposals focused on the Southern Tier may create an additional opportunity to identify an appropriately structured and capitalized gaming facility that could bring the region important economic development and employment.”
Kevin Law, Chairman of the Gambling Facility Location Board, said: “we are willing to entertain the governor’s request to issue a new Request for Application for this region, given the recommendation of Lago in the Finger Lakes region could encourage proposals from new applicants in the Southern Tier region. However, the Board will not consider opening up either the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region or the Capital Region to additional Applications. I am sympathetic to the economic struggles facing the Southern Tier. If private individuals and private companies are willing to invest their own money, I am open minded. What I’m not open minded about is simply recommending the same application that we’ve already passed on.”
Currently only one applicant has lodged its interest in applying for a license close to the Pennsylvania border but state officials are confident more applicants will come forward.
That applicant; Tioga Downs racino in Nichols, failed to excite the board first time round with its plans to add a second restaurant, miniature golf and batting cages to its existing racino. Owner Jeff Gural said he would now submit a revised proposal.
Other regions who also missed out on the casino opportunity are though up in arms. Orange County Legislature Chairman Stephen Brescia has criticised the Gaming Board for limiting the location of the fourth casino to the Southern Tier.
“Newburgh has the highest crime rate in the state, its unemployment rate is among the highest , and its poverty rate unacceptably high,” Mr. Brescia said. “To say the Newburgh region should not have an opportunity to compete for the fourth license makes no rational sense. I believe the Newburgh region should have a chance to compete.”
Legislator Christopher Eachus agreed saying: “It is wrong to limit an economic opportunity as big as a casino license to just one struggling region while telling Newburgh residents simply to drop dead. The siting committee should do its job and evaluate on the merits whether the Binghamton area southern tier is worse off than the Newburgh region, and whether a proposal in the Binghamton area would be better than one in the Newburgh area. To do otherwise smacks of favouritism not rooted in a fair process on the merits.”