Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs, has submitted an application to be able to run a casino in the Southern Tier of New York. Tioga Downs is a large gaming establishment that takes up 138-acres in Nichols, New York. The site maintains a county fair theme and houses both a racino and a standardbred racetrack.
The Southern Tier is a lucrative location for gaming because of its choice location. The Southern tier is north-west of New York City and south-west of Albany. Conveniently located on the border of Pennsylvania that is shared with New York state, this area contains a number of important municipalities and also has amazing resources, include agriculture and natural resources.
Gural, who is CEO and Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, LLC, is himself a horse owner and horse racing fan. In 2005, he purchased Tioga Downs for $32 million in a partnership with Nevada Gold and Casinos. The complex also include video lottery terminals (VLTS), which has shown consistent revenue growth since their introduction. In 2013, Gural and Tioga Parks introduced Proposition One, that is an amendment to state laws that would allow casino gambling in the area. Once the amendment was accepted, Southern Tier business and civic leaders began salivating at the additional revenues that could be brought to the area by increased gaming. Tioga Downs is building a 136 room resort hotel with gaming tables and an events center. This anchor project is thought to be critical for bringing in new tourists to the area. Tioga and Broome counties are expected to benefit from the expansion as the area becomes a regional tourist destination for gamblers.
The next step is for the gaming application to be approved by the gambling commission. Tioga Downs and Gural are relying on their track record to make that happen. When they took over, Tioga Downs was a completely abandoned project. Now, the complex is a large employer and taxpayer in the area. When Gural put in his application he outlined his longtime ties to the community and the charitable contributions he has made in the county. Gambling is becoming a much more competitive business in New York. Gural and his partners have invested $120 million to makeover Tioga and Vernon Downs. The expansion plan would continue the basic efforts and create even more jobs. Casinos and hotels are labor-intensive enterprises. The new projects will build on the workforce of over 700 which is already working based on the current investment.
New York, like most other states, are interested in repatriating gaming dollars that have fled their states for other locations. When gamblers come back home, tax rates increase and the state has more money in their coffers for services. Five companies in the Southern Tier applied for the application. Each of them attempted to outdo each other with their proposals and how many local jobs they would create. Gural and Tioga Downs have the added advantage of a long operating history in the area, given them a track record that could be checked. The gambling commission has stated that 70% of the proposal weighting will be based on Economic Impact. They’re looking to get the most bang for the buck from any project they approve. Gural remains confident that his group is the one that should be picked. He said his project will produce $122 million in annual revenues within two years of opening.
Tioga Downs’ application has received a lot of support from the local community, unlike a few alternatives which were met with resistance. It’s not a surprise, considering that the business has been operating for so long in the area. Tioga Downs already has a very active business in the area, making expansion seem easier than a company that is building for the first time. The various RFPs that were submitted varied in complexity, with one exceeding 2,000 pages in length. Tioga Downs has been working with other area business in anticipation of approval. They have received a groundswell of support from others area companies, which could help sway the approval. A full casino license would allow for Tioga Downs to immediately double in size. The state awarded three other licenses last year but rejected the one by Tioga Downs. The new application is thought to have made up for the deficiencies of that first proposal. There will be a total of seven casinos licensed throughout the state when all the applications have been approved. On the heels of the latest applications, Tioga Downs hopes to hold one of them.