Tioga Downs competes for NY casino license

Tioga Downs is one of the contenders for an upstate New York casino license. (Image: Owego Pennysaver)

The upstate New York casino battle is starting to come into sharper focus. The number of serious contenders has narrowed a bit from when the applications process began, and it’s starting to become clear where the biggest battles will be fought. And now, state regulators have started to get a look at exactly what each developer is proposing to bring to the Empire State with their projects.

On Monday, developers met in Albany to present their plans to a state panel that plans to award as many as four casino licenses to operators later this year. That day saw the first seven contenders for these licenses try to wow the panel in order to get a leg up in the licensing race.

Casino Operators Give 45-Minute Presentations

The proceedings were held for the benefit of the Gaming Facility Location Board, a five-person panel that will eventually make a final recommendation to the New York State Gaming Commission. Each applicant was given a 45-minute window to make their case, with many using promotional videos alongside economic and revenue statistics.

While the battle in the Catskills, where a casino (or two) will likely end up being authorized in Sullivan or Orange County, promises to be the most contentious, the Monday session focused on two less-prized locations. One is mainly focused on the Southern Tier, which borders northern Pennsylvania, while the other is the capital region near Albany. In these areas, some well-known names in the gambling industry are battling with smaller, lesser-known companies who can’t afford to compete in the more sought-after locations.

That meant that there were different paths taken by the various companies vying for what will likely be just one license in each of these regions. For instance, Tioga Downs, a racetrack located west of Binghamton, tried to use its small-scale proposed upgrade to their current facilities as a selling point, saying the gambling potential in the area is very limited.

On the other hand, some companies wanted the panel to dream big. Traditions by the Glen, a resort near Binghamton, asked regulators to “Think Big, Really Big.” A proposal in Tyre, a location west of Syracuse, said they expected to earn $263 million a year in gambling revenues, which was met with skepticism by some on the panel.

Hard Rock Among Potential Developers

Hard Rock International may have been the largest company in the mix on Monday, and they wanted the panel to consider their brand recognition when making a decision.

“The Hard Rock brand is the preferred brand of choice,” said James F. Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International. “That means something.”

One of the major goals of the new casino licensing program is to bring economic development to areas of the state that truly need it. That became a heavy point of emphasis in many of the presentations. For instance, analyst Nicole Dunn talked about the poor economic situation in the Binghamton area while advocating for the Tioga Downs proposal.

“The historical trends are bad,” Dunn said. “The projected trends are also bad.”

In total, there are 16 developers still in contention for the four licenses that are expected to be awarded in upstate New York. On Tuesday, developers looking to build in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, which is the most prized region, were scheduled to present their cases. Companies looking for the one or two licenses in that region include Caesars Entertainment and the Genting Group.