Only 1 contender so far for casino license in New York's Southern Tier

Industries Associated Press

New York gambling officials hope a casino license available in the state's Southern Tier will attract significant interest — but so far, there is only one contender, and its proposal already has been rejected once.

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A state board charged with picking locations for upstate casinos voted Tuesday to reopen the bidding process for a license in the region along the Pennsylvania border.

Last month, the board recommended casinos in the Catskills, Schenectady and the Finger Lakes. Two Southern Tier proposals were rejected and a fourth available license was withheld.

After local leaders objected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo requested a new bidding process for the fourth license and limited it to the Southern Tier.

The Tioga Downs racino in Nichols, on the Pennsylvania border near Binghamton, plans to submit a revised bid. Location board chairman Kevin Law said he hopes to see new proposals, too.

"We have a second bite at the apple, and we're going to earn it," said state Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, who supports Tioga's proposal. He said a casino for the struggling region "isn't going to solve all of our problems ... but it will give us a kick-start."

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SECOND TRY FOR TIOGA

Tioga Downs' proposal for a casino didn't pass muster with the location board, which also rejected an application from Traditions resort in Broome County. Traditions has since thrown its support behind Tioga.

The board cited Tioga's financing proposal as one reason in its rejection. More details about why the project wasn't selected are expected to be contained in the board's formal report, which is projected to be released in the coming weeks. Tioga owner Jeff Gural said he will amend his proposal in response. He said he suspects he lost points with the board because his proposal calls for a casino to be added to the existing racino.

"The fact that it's already built penalizes me because it looks like I'm spending less," he said.

The new proposal will also feature more amenities: a second restaurant, a miniature golf course, batting cages and a climbing wall.

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OTHER CONTENDERS?

No groups have stepped forward so far, but the possibility of new applications was raised by Cuomo in his letter seeking a new bidding process.

"As this would be the last license issued in New York, it may excite national competition by interested parties that submit even better applications than the first round," Cuomo wrote.

While this would be Tioga's second application, any new proposal would likely need more time to finalize its financing, secure local support and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

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TIMELINE

The next step in the selection of a casino is the formal request for applications. Then, bidders will have a length of time to complete and submit their applications before the location board makes a recommendation to the Gaming Commission, which will issue the license.

The location board is expected to discuss the process at its next meeting, which has not been scheduled.