Pushing For Casino Information, Oneida Indian Nation Files Suit

casinoThe Oneida Indian Nation is suing state gaming regulators in order to force the release of documents related to the placement of commercially backed casinos in upstate New York.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, was announced on Tuesday after Oneida officials said the New York State Gaming Commission rejected a Freedom Of Information Law request that sought the release of the siting information.

“The Gaming Commission is a public entity making decisions that will profoundly affect this state’s economy, and that means the public has a basic right to see how those decisions were made,” the Oneida Indian Nation said in a statement. “The Oneida Nation is asking the court to make sure the Gaming Commission lives up to its own promises to publicly release all materials that went into its decisions. This is especially troubling at a time when so many significant questions have already been raised about applicants’ potential undisclosed conflicts.”

The Oneidas operate one of the largest upstate casinos with Turning Stone in central New York. A casino siting board late last year recommended three casino projects be granted licences, backing facilities that would be built in Schenectady, the Hudson Valley and in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre. More >

Gaming Commission Chairman Steps Down

markgearanMark Gearan, the chairman of the state’s top regulatory authority for gambling, announced on Monday he is stepping down from the post he’s held for last year and a half.

Gearan made the announcement at the regularly scheduled meeting of the state Gaming Commission and comes just before the panel is set to formally approve licenses for casino development in different regions around upstate New York.

Gearan was confirmed by the Senate for the unpaid post in March 2014 after he was nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. More >

Case Against Lago Resort & Casino Dismissed

casinoA legal challenge that could have scuttled the development of a Finger Lakes casino was tossed by a state Supreme Court judge, the developers on Monday announced.

The development of Lago Resort & Casino in the town of Tyre was being challenged by Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in a suit first filed in March.

The lawsuit contended the recommendation by the state’s casino siting board that Lago being granted one of the licenses to build a casino would hurt their existing harness racetrack and racino operation. More >

Tioga Downs Pushes Back At Exclusivity Zone

The owners of Tioga Downs are crying foul after the Seneca County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution that would create what amounts to a 90-mile exclusivity zone around the Lago Resort & Casino, a Finger Lakes development that is likely to receive a license to open a casino later this year.

Tioga Downs CEO Jeff Gural believes this is tantamount to the county legislature asking the state to not grant a table-top gaming license to his Southern Tier racino as his facility lies within the zone’s boundaries.

“Now that the Lago project is facing its share of struggles, the Seneca County Board issues a low blow like this to try and eliminate the very competition their camp all said was a good thing and a positive for their project. We have in good faith submitted our application to the selection committee, and we are looking forward to the successful award of a full gaming license,” said Jeff Gural, CEO and Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment LLC.

The dispute comes as Lago faces questions over the project’s environmental impact and a court this month rejected its impact review.

Gural’s Tioga Downs was the sole bidder for a fourth casino license after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on gaming regulators to open a new bidding process.

The state’s casino siting board had initially recommended three casinos in upstate New York, including Lago, Schenectady’s Rivers Casino and the Adelaar project in the Hudson Valley’s Sullivan County.

But the decision to not award a fourth casino license to a Binghamton-area project was met with criticism. The casino siting announcement came the same day the Cuomo administration moved to ban high-volume hydrofracking, a controversial natural-gas extraction process that had been considered for the Southern Tier.

About a month after the initial announcement, Cuomo asked for a new siting process be opened for a casino project in the “true” Southern Tier.

Gambling Regulators Close In On Issuing Casino Licences

Regulators at the state Gaming Commission on Monday moved to release a package of rules for casino licensing out for public comment on Monday as they approach plans to officially issue licenses to operate the facilities by the end of September.

The board in its monthly meeting backed the release of the regulations for public comment for the next 45 days. Once that comment period concludes, the rules could be formally adopted by Sept. 30.

“To analogize, the casino regulations are a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said. “These are the first three pieces.

The proposed regulations for public comment concern requirements for women and minority owned business contracting, workforce enhancement and commercial gaming definitions.

The meeting comes as the deadline for an application to be granted a fourth casino license has closed as of 4 p.m. to be based in the Southern Tier region of the state.

As of Monday afternoon, only one application was submitted for a Binghamton-area casino: Jeff Gural’s Tioga Downs.

The state Gaming Commission cleared the way Monday to formally issue private casino licenses as soon as Sept. 30.

The gaming commission’s casino siting board late last year approved licenses for Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County; the Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, Sullivan County; and the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.

Gaming officials said a State Police background check of those potential license holders is nearing completion “any day now.”

Gaming Regulators Accepting Applications For Southern Tier Casino

State gaming regulators on Monday announced the request for applications process had formally started for a Southern Tier-based casino project.

The casino license would be the fourth awarded and comes after the state’s gaming facility siting board decided in December to only issue three licenses for casino projects.

The announcement included approval for projects in the Catskills, the Capital Region and the Finger Lakes, but did not include backing for any proposals near Binghamton. The announcement of the casino siting came the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved to ban hydrofracking in the state, which had been seen as a potential economic boost for the Southern Tier, an area that has consistently lagged the state in job growth.

Initially, the state and the Cuomo administration appeared unmoved by calls to open a new RFA process and issue a fourth licence.

But Cuomo changed course in January, asking the facility location board to consider issuing the final license to a Souhtern Tier-based project.

Report: Gambling Revenue For States Is Weak

Despite a rapid expansion of state-sanctioned gambling in recent years, revenue has been relatively weak, a report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government found.

The report, released on Monday, found gambling revenue in 2014 weakened overall in states that have casinos, lotteries or pari-mutuel wagering.

Nationally, revenue from gambling for states was largely flat, increasing by 0.6 percent between 2013 and 2014.

In New York, there was an uptick in revenue from the lottery and racinos, with overall gambling dollars increasing from $30 million in 2013 to $31.2 million in 2014.

Revenue from racinos in particular jumped 7.7 percent alone between 2013 and 2014.

While that accounts for a 3.2 percent increase overall, gambling companies in New York are opening up to four new resort-style casinos in Schenectady, the Catskills and in the Finger Lakes, with gambling regulators due to award a fourth license to a Binghamton-area project as well.

Revenue from casinos nationally has fallen 1.4 percent over the last year, the Rockefeller Institute study found.

Casinos have been billed as revenue generators not just for the state, but also the municipalities that host them, with promises of job creation and increased school aid as a result.

Gaming Commission Releases Casino Siting Analysis

The New York State Gaming Commission released a report today detailing the selection process of the Gaming Facility Location Board.

That board chose three locations, out of a possible four, to place casinos in three different regions of the state.

Governor Cuomo has called for the bidding process to be re-opened, to select a fourth casino in the Southern Tier. The Gaming Commision put that request in motion today by approving a draft request for applications.

The choice for the Southern Tier region was controversial to some because the pick was said not to be in the “true Southern Tier”, along the Pennsylvania border. Instead, the board choice Lago Resort, which will be located more in the Finger Lakes/Central New York region.

In the report, the commission cites Lago Resorts capital investment in the area – $425 million – saying it “far exceeds the proposed capital investment for the region.” The report also cites Lago’s potential to attract tourism to the Finger Lakes area, and, therefore, money.

As for the losing bid – Tioga Downs – the report said that location would not have the same impact. Since the building and location already exists, there would be less capital investment – about a third of what Lago proposed.

The report also says the board was concerned about the project’s debt to equity ratio. They say the proposed equity contribution was at $5 million, the rest of the project’s bill would be footed with loans. They were specifically concerned that the facility was relying on a commitment letter from one institution to provide $160 million in borrowed money.

They were also concerned with the facility’s design and how fast it would actually be open considering the many phases of development proposed.

You can read the full report online here.

Libous ‘Pleased’ Cuomo Reversed Course On S. Tier Casino

Republican Sen. Tom Libous was “pleased” Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged gaming regulators to take a second look at granting a casino license for the Southern Tier and the Binghamton region.

Libous is supportive of the Tioga Downs casino project proposed by developer and businessman Jeff Gural, but the region was virtually shut out of the casino business when the state gaming facility siting board granted three licenses last month, not four as the state law allows.

The lack of a casino for the Binghamton area came the same day that the administration announced a ban on high-volume hydrofracking, which would have been used in the Southern Tier — an area that has struggled with job growth for decades.

After insisting he had no role to play in the casino siting process, Cuomo wrote a letter to the Gaming Commission urging them to begin a new request for proposal process for the Southern Tier.

The state gaming commission last week announced in a statement it would consider a new RFP for Southern Tier-based projects only. The siting board will meet this evening in New York City to consider a new request for proposal process.

“I was actually pleased he wrote that letter,” Libous said. “The governor and I had several conversations. The first one was probably not as pleasant as he would have liked or I would have liked. But he was good, he was very responsive.” 

Nevertheless, siting board Chairman Kevin Law dismissive of Gural’s proposal for Tioga Downs, which he said would have to be improved in order to win that fourth license.

But Libous insisted Gural’s proposal has a good head start.

“I think when you look at the other proposals, they’re starting from scratch,” he said. “I would respectfully disagree with the commission. Mr. Gural has a good proposal, I think he’s going to make it stronger. I hope they do the right thing and we want the fourth license.”

Casino Location Board ‘Willing To Entertain’ New Casino Proposals In Southern Tier

State gaming regulators on Friday indicated they would undertake a new request for proposal process to receive new bids for a Southern Tier-based casino following a personal request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month.

The announced was made in a joint statement from New York State Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Geran and Gaming Facility Location Board Chairman Kevin Law.

“The intent of the gaming statute was to benefit economically distressed Upstate areas experiencing high levels of unemployment,” Geran said in a statement. “Clearly, the Southern Tier meets this criterion. A process to generate new proposals focused on the Southern Tier may create an additional opportunity to identify an appropriately structured and capitalized gaming facility that could bring the region important economic development and employment.”

The board charged with awarding potentially lucrative casino licenses to casino developers last month awarded three permits to projects based in the Sullivan County, Schenectady and in the Finger Lakes community of Tyre, in Seneca County.

A meeting will be held Jan. 13 in New York City to discuss the issue.

Law, the casino siting board chairman, said the board will not be re-opening the process to the other regions of the state.

“Nevertheless, we are willing to entertain the Governor’s request to issue a new Request for Application for this region, given the recommendation of Lago in the Finger Lakes region could encourage proposals from new applicants in the Southern Tier region. However, the Board will not consider opening up either the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region or the Capital Region to additional Applications,” Law said in his statement.

Casino board members declined to issue a fourth casino permit last month, noting the northeast casino market was nearing a saturation point that could have harmed the commercial casino development effort underway.

But the announcement of which bids won casino permits came the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced it would put a ban on high-volume hydrofracking in place early this year.

The controversial natural gas extraction process had been considered a potential economic boon for upstate New York, especially the jobs-starved Southern Tier.

The announcement on hydrofracking, paired with Southern Tier-based projects being shut out, was seen as a serious morale blow to the region, with the Binghamton Press and Sun summing up the day with the word “NO” on its front page.

Sen. Tom Libous, a Republican who has a friendly public relationship with Cuomo, asked that the fourth permit be awarded to a Binghamton-area project.

Days after the announcement, Cuomo — who had stressed he was playing no role in the casino siting project — wrote to gaming regulators asking that they re-open the RFP process and consider a Southern Tier-based casino with the still available fourth license.

The move to reconsider the Southern Tier as a location for casino development still raises a number of questions, including the scope of Cuomo’s role in making the recommendation in the area.

At the same time, the question of whether yet another casino in upstate New York would be feasible in the Binghamton area given the proximity of both the Finger Lakes project and the plans by the Oneida Indian Nation to construct a “Wizard of Oz” themed-casino announced last year.