New York Casino Licensing Under Fire

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (l.) has opened an investigation into the 2014 bidding process for casino licenses in New York. It was recently revealed the Gaming Facility Location Board had legal ties to winning bidders. Meanwhile, residents of Tyre are questioning whether it is time to give up on the casino dream.

It was only a matter of time until this hit the mainstream and became an extraordinary controversy. After Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the Gaming Facility Location Board to reconsider a potential fourth bid, which would go to the Southern Tier, losing bidders from last years casino bidding process did a little bit of digging up, and it didn’t take long to find a story.

It was discovered that Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP, which merged with law firm Shefsky and Froelich, last year, was under a one year $4.9 million contract with the board as their lead gambling consultant. It turns out Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP also represented five of the 16 bidders, including the three which were awarded licenses.

One thing is for certain; losing bidders are not going down without a fight. They have incessantly argued that the winning picks were inconsistent. While six bids were made in Orange County, all were rejected.

“Toward the end of the process, when we were leaning toward Montreign in the Catskills, we determined to give it the best shot, we can’t do one in Orange County,” board chairman Kevin Law told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. People feel that while the board should have let Orange County know this in the beginning, they were not told until the end.

Many feel that if the board was concerned about competition in the Catskills region with two casinos, the choice for two casinos in the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier region with fewer people and a more competitive market makes no sense. Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural, who lost a bid for an expansion on the racino, met with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigators.

“My sense was that they wanted to make sure that nothing illegal happened in the process. And I think I made my point. I think that there was a conflict of interest that resulted in the selection of Lago in my opinion. But do I think anything illegal took place? I don’t think so.” Schneiderman’s office declined to comment.

Tired in Tyre

Two meetings were recently held in New York in regards to the winning bidders for a casino in the state. February 23 saw the monthly meeting with the New York State Gaming Commission, while February 27 saw a meeting of the Gaming Facility Location Board which discussed the three winning bidders from last December.

Meanwhile, locals have formed Casino Free Tyre, a group of ten concerned residents of the town, who have filed a lawsuit against the decision of the Tyre Town Board to approve the casino project. According to the group, the environmental review, which was easily approved, was not thorough enough. Their thinking is that the casino will have both a social and environmental negative impact on the region.

In June 2014, the Tyre Town Board stated the Lago project would not have much of an environmental impact, if at all. James Dawley, a spokesman for Casino Free Tyre, said there was simply not enough adequate and thorough research done on the issue. Dawley claims research should take up to a few years, yet it was completed in just a few months.

The $425 million casino-resort, which will feature a large gaming floor, massive hotel, and various attractions cannot begin construction until the New York Gaming Facility Location Board issues the necessary license.