Southern Tier New York casino

Southern Tier officials are upset that local proposals such as the one at Tioga Downs were passed over in New York’s casino recommendations. (Image: WENY News)

The New York casino licensing battles remains hot even after last week’s announcement by the Gaming Facility Location Board that only three upstate casinos would be recommended.

Officials in New York’s Southern Tier are requesting that the state reconsider allowing a casino in the region, while a Native American tribe’s announcement of a new facility threatens to further complicate the local market.

The Southern Tier, a part of New York State that borders northern Pennsylvania, was combined with the Finger Lakes into a single licensing region for the purposes of New York’s casino expansion.

Local officials had hoped that one of two proposals in the Southern Tier would be chosen, but the recommendation for a guaranteed license for the region instead went to Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, a Finger Lakes location.

State Only Recommended Three of Four Possible Casinos

The state board also recommended one casino in the Catskills, and another in Schenectady, near Albany. They did not, however, recommend that a fourth license be awarded, despite the fact that the state’s laws allowed for one region to receive a second casino.

While most observers expected a fourth casino would have gone to the Hudson Valley-Catskills region, which was seen as the most lucrative, Southern Tier officials are now lobbying for it to be used to give them a casino instead.

“We need an opportunity,” said State Senator Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton). “We need the jobs. This part of the state has been hurting for some time, and there is a fourth license that we all know is available. Again, I’m asking for that fourth license to be granted in the true Southern Tier region.”

Lawmakers Appeal to Governor

Other officials have also asked Governor Andrew Cuomo to locate a fourth casino in Tioga County, including US Representative Tom Reed (R-New York) and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell). But the state board said that they were quite clear in their recommendations.

“We reached a unanimous consensus that these three selections that we made have the best shot for success,” said Gaming Facility Location Board Chairman Kevin Law. “There shouldn’t be a fourth.”

For Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs who had hoped to expand the racetrack into a fully-fledged casino, that explanation simply isn’t enough.

“I think it’s clear that no one understands why the Southern Tier, which was promised a license, did not get a license,” Gural said.

Governor Cuomo has pledged to give the Southern Tier the kind of special economic attention in his second term that he gave Buffalo in his first term as governor.

Locals feel as though the area has been largely shunned in the past week, both because of the casino decision and a fracking ban announced last Wednesday.

Oneida Nation Announces New Casino Project

Meanwhile, the Oneida Indian Nation has announced that they plan to open a $20 million Oz-themed casino in Chittenango in 2015, just 14 miles east of Syracuse. The announcement of the small facility came just four days after the state board made their commercial casino recommendations, and the new casino will be only about 60 miles away from the Tyre resort. However, Oneida officials say that their plans were in the works long before that announcement.

“It’s the way the timing worked out,” Oneida spokesman Joel Barkin told Capital New York.