Gaming

Vernon Downs Postpones Opening Day Citing Casino Competition

Vernon Downs has postponed its April 21 opening day for harness racing, pointing to increased competition from three casinos in the region.

At the same time, American Racing and Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gural in a statement on Thursday called on the state to give the racetrack a tax break in order to shore up its finances due to the lost revenue.

“A tax break for Vernon Downs would not cost the taxpayers any money as taxes from gaming revenue lost from Vernon are currently being generated at our four main competitors in the region. Worse yet, including the horsemen, Vernon has the highest tax rate of its competitors,” Gural said.

“Lowering the tax rate is a way that New York can ensure that properties like Vernon Downs that do not have table games can remain competitive and continue to be an asset within the community. Since reopening Vernon as a racino in 2006 we have given almost $150 million to the State for education. My hope is that New York State will step to the plate to save the three hundred jobs of those that Vernon Downs currently employs in addition to all the jobs and benefits related to racing.”

Vernon Downs, Gural said, has lost an average of $150,000 a month since November. Three table-top gaming casinos have opened within driving distance of the track: Yellow Brick Road, operated by the Oneida Indian Nation, and the commerically run Lago and Rivers casinos.

Gural has been an outspoken businessman and successfully sought a fourth casino license after project proposals for the Southern Tier region failed to win approval from state gaming regulators.

Gaming Commission Approves Casino For Tioga Downs

As expected, state gaming regulators on Tuesday approved a casino license for the Tioga Downs Casino in the town of Nichols — adding a fourth casino to upstate New York.

The vote at the state Gaming Commission in Saratoga Springs was unanimous.

Initially, state officials in late 2014 would only issue three casino licenses for regions north of New York City in Schenectady, the Finger Lakes town of Tyre and in Kiamesha Lake in the Catskills. At the time, the state’s casino siting board questioned the financial viability in a fourth region that would have qualified for a casino: the economically troubled Southern Tier.

But the Southern Tier region the same day of the casino announcement was also shut out from another revenue source, high-volume hydrofracking, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration moved to ban.

At the urging of state lawmakers and from Tioga Downs itself, Cuomo called for a new casino siting and licensing process for the Southern Tier. The sole applicant was Tioga Downs.

The Gaming Commission touted the economic benefits of bringing table-top gaming to the Southern Tier, including $25.6 million in statewide school aid as well as $3.2 million for Tioga County and the Nichols town government.

“Tioga Downs’ expansion will foster hundreds of new jobs and spur much-needed economic development in the Southern Tier, plus generate millions of dollars for public schools and local governments – with all private money and zero taxpayer dollars,” Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said in a statement.

Gaming Commission Issues Temporary Fantasy Sports Permits

State gambling regulators on Monday issued the first temporary permits for fantasy sports companies to operate legally in New York.

The New York State Gaming Commission issued the permits for companies DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo, FantasyDraft and Draft.

“As the newly enacted law requires, the Commission regulates all aspects of interactive fantasy sports, including ensuring the operators put important consumer protections in place,” said Commission Executive Director Robert Williams. “While the Commission continues work on formal regulations for these games, these temporary permits get companies up and running in New York State while assuring resident players that safeguards are in place.”

State lawmakers in June approved legislation that regulates and legalizes fantasy sports in New York after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman challenged the legality of the activity, forcing major operators to suspend business in the state.

It’s estimated $4 million in revenue is expected from fantasy sports regulation in New York.

DraftKings Files New Legal Brief

As part of its ongoing legal battle with New York state over fantasy sports, DraftKings issued another brief in its effort to overcome a challenge from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“Today’s filing emphasizes what the legal precedents, and undisputed evidence, make clear, and what experts, fans, and policymakers are saying in state after state—daily fantasy sports are skill-based games that are, and should be, legal,” said DraftKings attorney David Boies. “Our contests are no less legal than season long fantasy sports, which the Attorney General has repeatedly conceded are legal. We look forward to arguing our appeal so that the merits of our case get the fair hearing we deserve. As this matter plays out, we will preserve the status quo and continue to engage with the New York legislature, as we are in dozens of states around the country.”

Schneiderman last year filed a legal challenge to major fantasy sports operators, arguing the companies in New York act as “games of chance” — outlawed under the state’s Constitution.

State lawmakers, meanwhile, have debated over the last several months whether fantasy sports operations like DraftKings and FanDuel should be regulated as other allowable gambling entities. It’s likely, however, the Legislature will wait for the outcome of the court dispute before moving to regulate fantasy sports in the state.

In addition to New York, several states are challenging whether to allow fantasy sports and if they should be regulated as gambling.

2015_453054_People v DraftKings Inc_DraftKings Inc_appbrf by Nick Reisman

Moody’s: Lago Presents A ‘Competitive Challenge’ To Existing Rasinos, Turning Stone

The Lago Resort & Casino complex being built in the Finger Lakes community of Tyre will be stiff competition for existing gambling outlets in central New York, a report from Moody’s Investors Service released on Friday found.

The report pointed to advantages Lago will have over its competition, such as the Batavia Downs and Finger Lakes racinos, including location and a favorable tax structure for slot machines and table gaming.

At the same time, Lago is expected to peel of some gamblers who would otherwise go to Turning Stone casino, which is operated by the Oneida Nation of Indians.

“Our expectations for the success of Lago assume that the new casino is able to cannibalize a portion of the Turning Stone’s Syracuse customers with the lure of a new project with many non-gaming amenities,” the report found.

The Oneidas have raised sustained objections and filed a legal challenge to Lago receiving one of the three commercial casino gaming licenses in the first phase of construction.

Turning Stone exists within an exclusivity zone, which Lago does not lie within. Nevertheless, the Oneida Nation has argued Lago’s existence represents a threat to their business in central New York.

“We are excited about and focused on building the best resort and casino in upstate New York to create jobs, increase tourism and generate real economic opportunity and growth for the Finger Lakes region,” said Lago spokesman Steve Greenberg. “We are increasing the pace of construction and look forward to opening early in 2017 as a new regional draw for visitors from near and far.”

Meanwhile, Lago has the advantage of taxes as well: The resort is subject to a 10 percent tax rate on table game revenue and a 37 percent rate on slot machines. At Finger Lakes, the tax rate currently being paid is 70 percent.

Gaming revenue at racinos in New York overall has rebounded last year after declining in 2014, Moody’s found, increasing by 2.3 percent overall. Vernon Downs was the only racino last year to post an overall reduction in revenue.

But that doesn’t mean the gambling industry overall is healthy, given a number of casinos due to open in the northeast market in the coming years.

“This improvement does not suggest any material improvement in sector fundamentals at a time when we are about to see a major increase in gaming supply in the northeast US,” the found.

Oneida Indian Nation Sues To Block Lago Casino

As expected, the Oneida Indian Nation on Tuesday announced it will take the state Gaming Commission to court over its decision to award a casino license to the Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre.

The Oneida Indian Nation over the last several months has argued the Lago project, which state regulators formally approved this month for a casino license along with two other developments, will “cannibalize” existing casino operations, including Turning Stone, which they operate.

“When the Oneida Indian Nation and a majority of New Yorkers supported the measure to expand gaming, we supported a very clear law — one that mandated a review formula requiring new gaming facilities to prove they will create new jobs, rather than simply cannibalizing local economies,” the Oneida Indian Nation said in a statement. “That new law did not empower the Gaming Commission to create an arbitrary make-it-up-as-you go licensing process that allows commissioners to change their review criteria on a whim. This lawsuit is simple: we are asking the court to force the gaming commission to enforce and respect the law that it is responsible for upholding.”

Lago spokesman Steve Greenberg dismissed the filing of the lawsuit as a non-event, given the Oneida Indians have been telegraphing plans to do so for months.

“Apparently, the Oneidas have decided they are not going to let the facts get in the way of another expensive and misguided lawsuit,” Greenberg said. “This is the seventh lawsuit brought against this project – most of which have been largely or completely funded by the Oneidas to preserve their monopoly and ignore New York’s commitment to expand economic opportunity in the Finger Lakes region. Like previous lawsuits, this one too will prove to be unsuccessful.”

In the suit, the Oneidas argue the selection process was “subjective” when it came to which licenses would be awarded. The suit claims the casino siting location board did not use an objective weighting analysis that was required under the state law allowing for commercial casino gaming.

At the same time, the Oneidas claim the location board on the one hand eliminated casino applicants that were based on factors “completely ignored” in the Lago project.

The push back to the Lago project began last year, but several months after the casino siting location board recommended the Lago project be approved. Gaming regulators approved the licenses in a formal adoption earlier this month.

The Oneida Indian Nation, along with the state’s Indian tribes that operate casinos, agreed to exclusivity and revenue sharing deals with the state. The Lago project is being built outside of the exclusivity zone set aside for the Oneidas.

Gaming Board Approves Three Casino Licenses

The New York State Gaming Commission unanimously approved three licenses for casino projects in different regions of upstate New York.

Gaming regulators granted final approval for the Montreign Resort in Sullivan County, the Rivers Casino in Schenectady and the Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, Seneca County.

The Lago project is likely to be subject to a legal challenge from the Oneida Indian Nation, which operates Turning Stone Casino. The Oneida Indians have in recent months stepped up a campaign to block the project from receiving a casino license, arguing Lago’s presence in the area could hinder economic development.

Lago developers called their project a “game changer” for the Finger Lakes region.

“We have been involved in a number of first class casinos in different parts of the country and our collective experience in this industry tells us that Lago will be an overwhelming success,” said M. Brent Stevens, one of the project’s partners. “We are thrilled that the Gaming Commission has given us the green light and we look forward to building and operating Upstate New York’s best resort and casino.”

Lago’s owners have pushed back, charging the Oneida Indians simply want to protect their monopoly on casino gambling in the central New York region. Turning Stone operates within an exclusivity zone approved by the state and the Lago project lies outside of the area.

“Unfortunately, the decision was forced through by public officials who were blindly committed to this project and abandoned the public trust,” the Oneida Indian Nation said in a statement. “We are left with no choice but to turn to the courts. Litigation is necessary when public officials abandon their public responsibilities.”

A fourth license for a project at Tioga Downs could be issued for a project in the Southern Tier after state officials began a new bidding process in January after the Binghamton region did not receive a recommended license.

The approval is the culmination of a process that began with Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposing a constitutional amendment to expand table-top casino gaming beyond the state’s Indian tribes.

The three casinos represent the first phase of construction, which was aimed at upstate counties.

“I am confident that this resort will be the beginning of an economic renaissance for the Catskills,” said Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican who chairs the . Congratulations to the Town of Thompson, Sullivan County, and all the other counties that will benefit from this resort when it is built and operating.”

12+21+15+Letter+from+G++Borden+to+Gaming+Commission+and+Lago1+copy by Nick Reisman

Griffo Calls For Economic Study Of New Casinos

A Republican lawmaker in the state Senate on Monday called for an economic study on the the coming commercial casinos in New York as the Oneida Indian Nation steps up its pressure campaign to block the licensing of rival Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes.

Sen. Joe Griffo, who represents the Mohawk Valley where the Oneida Indians own and operate Turning Stone, made the request for the economic study in letters sent to the Department of Labor, the state Gaming Commission and the Empire State Development Corp.

Specifically, Griffo in the letters writes that he is seeking data on jobs in the state’s gaming industry in the present day and two years from now. At the same time, he wants employment figures at all facilities that provide gambling services, including those on American Indian lands.

“I believe the number of jobs impacted by these developments in the gaming industry over time will speak for itself,” Griffo wrote in the letter. “That’s why, in order to honestly evaluate the circumstances surrounding the placement of any new casinos in our state, I am hereby formally requesting that both the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Empire State Development Corporation provide statistical data on employment numbers concerning the state’s gaming industry – currently, and two years from now. This data should include employment numbers at all facilities involved in gaming and wagering across the state, including facilities on Native American lands.”

The first round of casino construction will see table-top gaming facilities built in Tyre, Schenectady and in Sullivan County after the state gaming facility location board recommended those projects to the state Gaming Commission.

The commission itself, which met today, is yet to formally approve the licenses and may not meet again for the remainder of the year.

The Oneida Indian Nation has in recent weeks pushed back against the construction of the Lago Resort given their concern the casino could hamper their business at Turning Stone. The Oneidas have in recent weeks aired a TV and radio campaign.

Lago itself has pushed back, saying the Oneida Indian Nation is simply concerned with preserving its monopoly on table-top gambling.

Sen Griffo Letter to Gaming Commission 11 23 15 by Nick Reisman

Lago Decries ‘Push Poll’ Phone Call (Updated)

casinoDevelopers of the Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes commmunity of Tyre are blasting the latest effort to deny the project a casino license: An apparent “push poll” being made to residents in the area.

Push polls are commonly deployed in political campaigns, with questions designed not to gather a scientific survey of voters’ opinions, but to shift opinions with leading and critically worded questions.

In this case, the poll questions claim the resort’s placement in Tyre will lead to higher property taxes, government-subsidized housing for “out of town” workers building the casino and other nuisances.

“Lago’s opponents have reached a new low in their attempt to spread false and misleading information about Lago. Under the guise of a ‘poll’ they are using scare tactics and outright false claims to try and discredit Lago,” said spokesman Steve Greenberg. “These opponents – who apparently have money to burn – are making phone calls to Tyre residents to frighten them with dishonest claims that Lago will, among other things, cause property taxes to increase. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Lago will provide $3.8 million annually each to the Town of Tyre and Seneca County to allow them to lower property taxes.”

The Oneida Indians are conducting an extensive TV and radio campaign urging the state gaming commission to deny Lago one of three licenses that are due to be rewarded by regulators. The state’s casino location board recommended Lago receive one of the licenses, along with casino projects in Sullivan County and Schenectady. More >

Tyre Officials Backs Lago Site Plan

casinoAs the Oneida Indian Nation works to sink the Lago Casino and Resort license with state gambling regulators, local officials approved a site plan for the project, with construction beginning on the project, developers on Friday announced.

The vote by the Tyre Town Board to move forward with the plan was unanimous.

“Throughout this entire process, Supervisor Ron McGreevy and the entire Tyre Town Board have worked harder and more diligently than any local government body I have ever seen. They have studied the issues down to the smallest details. They have asked the tough questions and demanded solid answers,” said developer Thomas Wilmot, the chairman of Wimorite, in a statement. “We appreciated those questions and we provided answers.

Developers expect the pace of construction for the Finger Lakes casino will depend on both weather and the timing of when the state Gaming Commission formally issues licenses for table-top gaming in New York.

Lago was one of three casino projects recommended by a casino siting board to receive a license in the first phase of construction.

“Today we recommence construction. Ultimately, construction will result in 1,800 new construction jobs and then 1,800 permanent jobs for people who desperately need the work,” said Lago parnter M. Brent Stevens, a managing member of Peninsula Pacific. “Now that construction is resuming, we know that – pending the issuance of a casino license – Lago is expected to be fully operational in the first half of 2017.”

The Oneidas are pushing back against the casino’s construction, raising concerns that it could hurt their existing business at Turning Stone in central New York, despite having reached an exclusivity agreement with the state. The Lago site lies in Seneca County, outside of the Oneida’s exclusivity region.