Gaming Commission to Consider Final Approval for 3 New York Casino Licenses
Next Monday, the New York Gaming Commission plans to vote on the question of awarding state casinos licenses to three casino developers. The Gaming Commission’s vote is the final approval for casinos projects in the Catskills, Schenedtady, and the Finger Lakes. In several cases, the preliminary work has begun on those sites.
Those who thought the licenses had been announced in December 2014 were right. That is when the Siting Panel awarded licenses to the Montreign Resort Casino, Rivers Casino, and Lago Resort. The Siting Panel was a group appointed by the Gaming Commission, though. While it had the ability to award licenses, it did not have the final approval in the process. With a year to evaluate progress, that approval is expected to be forthcoming Monday.
Grumbles about the Year-Long Licensing Process
Some pundits have criticized the length licensing procedure, saying the delays could cause New York State to get a late start on drawing customers to new casinos, while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are approving new developments. Officials at the county level have begun to get nervous, so the Gaming Commission’s executive director, Robert Williams, has had to answer a number of letters from local officials.
In one such letter, Robert Williams replied to a county official in the Catskills who had called for an explanation of the drawn-out process. Williams wrote, “There is no delay. We are moving swiftly.”
Comparisons to Massachusetts
New York officials at the state level point to the fact it took 3 to 4 years for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to approve licenses for the Wynn Everett and MGM Springfield casino developments. By that standard, Robert Williams says New York’s process has been relatively short.
Developers do not seem to mind the delay, or else they would prefer not to complain on the eve of final approval. When asked about the year-long time it took to gain final approval, Lago Resort spokesman Steven Greenberg told Syracuse.com, “We are looking forward to the Gaming Commission’s meeting. We are excited about the opportunity…to build and operate the best casino in upstate New York.”
Full Construction Phase Set to Begin
If and when formal licensure happens on Monday, the three gaming developments can move ahead with financing and construction. Each of the projects should begin full construction in the coming months. Each casino expects to open its doors within two years.
“Casino Free Tyre” Controversy
In the past year, issues have arisen for one of the projects. “Casino Free Tyre” is a political action committee formed by residents in the Finger Lakes region to oppose construction of the $425 million Lago Resort & Casino project. Residents believe the resort, which is expected to be located 42 miles from Syracuse, would harm the region’s ecological environment.
Desiree Dawley is a spokesman for Casino Free Tyre. This past Friday, Mrs. Dawley said, “It remains undisputed that Tyre town officials colluded with a private real estate mogul, and together they ran roughshod over our state’s environmental laws. The Gaming Commission would be doing the state a disservice and abdicating its responsibilities if approves a license while courts are reviewing if environmental laws were followed as a part of Lago’s application process.”
Tioga Downs License
Since the December 2014 licensing announcements, it appears that a fourth license is likely to be offered. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo complained that the Siting Panel did not offer the full compliment of licenses, it was decided to re-open the issue for a possible Southern Tier casino. It has been announced that the horse track and slot machine casino at Tioga Downs has been approved for an expansion. When Jeffrey Gural’s company completes the Tioga Downs expansion in 2016, the racetrack is expected to have a Las Vegas-style casino resort.