NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Southern Tier casino

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged a state board to reconsider a Southern Tier casino, but the board’s chairman says the final decision will not be influenced by the Empire State’s leader. (Image: David Karp/Bloomberg)

The New York Southern Tier is waiting on pins and needles for the results of a casino licensing meeting tonight with the State Gaming Facility Location Board.

Tonight’s meeting will see the Board give consideration to reopening the bidding process for a resort in the Southern Tier.

That area of the state has been lobbying everyone up through New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a effort to make its case that the area, located near the Pennsylvania border, is deserving of the fourth and final license reserved for upstate New York.

Even the fact that the Southern Tier is still in the game is a bit of a success for local politicians and residents. The area was partnered with the Finger Lakes as a single region in the casino bidding process, and between the two, were only promised a single license. That one ultimately went to the Lago Resort and Casino, a Finger Lakes proposal that was larger than the bids coming out of the Southern Tier.

But people in the region felt that they’d been passed over in the casino process, when on the same day they were denied licensing, a hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking) ban was put into place in the state, which could leave the Southern Tier in dire economic straits. That led to appeals to the state Gaming Commission and Governor Cuomo to give the area another chance.

New Meeting Could Open Bidding for Fourth License

That led Cuomo to appeal to the Gaming Facility Location Board, which in turn decided to hold a meeting on Tuesday night in New York City to consider reopening the bidding in the Southern Tier.

Because the board originally only recommended three casinos for upstate New York, there is still a fourth license that could potentially be awarded. While that license was originally up for grabs in all three upstate regions, however, the board will only be considering offering it to the Southern Tier at this meeting.

That doesn’t sit well with many lawmakers and other observers throughout the state. Some believe that other areas of New York should also have the opportunity to bid for that fourth license if it becomes available, while others question how much influence Governor Cuomo has in the casino process.

Hudson Valley Officials Want a Shot

At one point in the bidding process, it seemed likely that the fourth casino would end up in the Catskills/Hudson Valley region, which was the most lucrative area and saw the most interest from major casino firms. Given its proximity to New York City and the fact that regional competition could be fierce there, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus believes that the region should be a part of any discussion over the final casino license.

“Given the distinct possibility that casino gambling in New Jersey could expand outside of its current Atlantic City location, including the Meadowlands, it makes sense for New York jobs and revenue that the most productive regions in southern New York be included in this discussion,” read a statement from Neuhaus.

Cuomo’s Influence Questioned

There are also concerns that Cuomo, who pledged to allow the board to work independently, has had too much influence in the licensing process.

“Every time he says something, he does the opposite when it doesn’t turn out the way he wants it to turn out,” said Assemblyman James Tedisco (R-Schenectady). “If you’re going to say something is independent, keep it independent.”

But members of the facility location board say they’ve been able to act independently, without any pressure from the governor’s office, and that the decision on the Southern Tier will come from them, not from Cuomo.

“I have never, ever spoken to the governor on this matter,” said Kevin Law, chairman of the board.