Lago Resort New York casinos

The Turning Stone Resort and Casino is one of several venues that could be impacted if the Lago Resort and Casino is built in the Finger Lakes. (Image: Turning Stone)

Opponents of a proposed casino in the Finger Lakes, one of three resorts that are planned to be built in upstate New York, are ramping up their attacks in an attempt to either protect themselves against the new competition or stop the casino from even being built.

The Lago Resort and Casino, which won the license that was reserved for the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier region of New York, was a controversial choice from the start.

Residents and officials in the Southern Tier region felt that they were nearly assured to win with one of their bids, are were devastated to find out that the location in Tyre was chosen instead.

Gaming Exclusion Zone Could Stop Tioga Downs Bid

Tioga Downs, a racetrack that also competed for the casino license, is now part of an effort to convince New York officials to award the unused fourth license to the Southern Tier.

However, they believe that the ongoing process over at the Lago Resort may be damaging what is already a long shot effort to convince state regulators.

Last week, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors submitted a request for a 90-mile exclusive gaming zone around the Lago Resort and Casino, part of a resolution they adopted about the resort.

That might not be an unusual request, but it is one that would scuttle a Tioga Downs casino if it were adopted, as the track is within that area.

“Now that the Lago project is facing its share of struggles, the Seneca County Board issues a low blow like this to try and eliminate the very competition their camp all said was a good thing and a positive for their project,” said Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs.

If the exclusive zone were to be implemented, it could potentially impact other gambling venues in the area as well. Turning Stone Casino, the largest Native American resort in Central New York, is only about 80 miles from the proposed site for the Lago Resort, while two racinos (Nichols and Vernon Downs) are both within the zone as well.

This isn’t the first time such a request has been made.

Seneca County made the same request in March 2014, but it wasn’t considered by the state gaming commission.

Turning Stone Wants Lago Application Revoked

Turning Stone is also launching their own effort to stop the Finger Lakes casino in its tracks. The Oneida Indian Nation, which owns and operates the casino, has wrote to the gaming commission in an attempt to have the Lago casino’s application nullified.

That request follows a ruling earlier this month from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court that voided the Tyre Town Board’s environmental review of the proposed casino.

Since that decision came down, developers have halted construction on the venue until the situation can be resolved.

“I would be disingenuous if I did not say how frustrated I am in this temporary delay,” said developer Thomas Wilmot in a statement. “However, I am most disappointed on behalf of the people of Tyre, Seneca County and the Finger Lakes region who badly need the jobs and economic development Lago’s construction and operations will provide.”

According to George Borden, an attorney for the Oneidas, the Lago project has brought those delays upon itself.

“Lago is solely to blame for the problems it has created,” Borden wrote in a letter to the gaming commission. “It orchestrated a flawed [environmental review] process and then failed to take corrective action in the first instance after receiving notice of suit in July 2014. Indeed, Lago apparently failed even to disclose the existence of the [lawsuit] to the Location Board or Gaming Commission.”

The Lago project is one of three that were recommended for casino licenses by the Gaming Facility Location Board late last year. The other two were the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady and the Montreign Resort and Casino in Thompson, a town in the Catskills.