With the four New York casino licenses now set, it’s a race to see who can open first.
Work began October 30 on the proposed Tioga Downs casino expansion in Nichols, with economic benefits expected to be felt far away.
An official groundbreaking ceremony initiated the project, which awaits a routine background check of owner Jeff Gural before New York gaming regulators issue the full gaming license that is one of four recently approved by state officials.
The expansion is underway to meet Gural’s goal of having table games in operation within six months of receiving his full gaming license and plans a 161-room hotel and restaurants to complement the $195 million casino project.
State gaming regulators last year rejected Gural’s application for an expanded casino license but approve his amended plan this year.
The state initially was going to issue three casino gaming licenses but opted for a fourth in the Southern Tier with the goal of boosting local economies. Overwhelming support from local residents and officials in favor of the casino project helped sway the state’s decision to approve the Tioga Downs casino license and expansion.
Local officials in Chemung County say the casino will boost tourism throughout the region as more people come to the area for its rural atmosphere and legal gaming.
Local officials also cited 1,000 new jobs as being much needed in the rural area where economic conditions have been poor for several decades.
In the Catskills area of New York, the proposed Montreign Resort Casino has received another $150 million in funding, raising its available total to $545 million, and casino plans grow.
Credit Suisse AG in September increased the credit limit as the project grew from 80,000 square feet and 61 gaming table to 95,000 square feet and 102 table games.
Empire Resorts also announced it will decrease the number of rooms in a planned hotel, reducing the total from 395 to 333, but the rooms will be larger and more luxurious as a result. Empire Resorts wants the hotel to merit five-star status.
Casino plans initially called for a harness track, which was approved, but Empire Resorts scrapped the new track in favor of continuing to run the Monticello Raceway, which it also owns.
The casino project is one of four that New York gaming regulators have approved but await background checks before receiving their licenses for full casino operations.
The Montreign Casino would be located inside an expanded Concord Resort facility near Exit 106 on Route 17.
And in Schenectady, the Galesi Group in October broke ground on a $15 million, 124-room Courtyard Marriott Hotel with completion expected in August 2017.
The new hotel is located on a 60-acre parcel next to the site of the proposed $330 million Rivers Casino and being built by Albany-based BBL Construction.
“It’s a great pleasure to start going vertical,” Galesi COO David Buicko said. “We’re the envy of Upstate.”
The Galesi Group plans to invest $480 million into the hotel and casino development, which includes expanding Mohawk Harbor to enable boating traffic.
First Niagara is financing the $15 million hotel construction, which will serve more than just casino guests. Local officials say Schenectady does not have enough hotel rooms, and major local businesses often have to put up business guests at hotels in Albany or Saratoga.
Another hotel under construction in Schenectady, a Doubletree by Hilton, is planned to open in December.
The Rivers Casino is one of four that have received preliminary approval from New York gaming officials but await results of background checks to obtain their gaming licenses.