Developers proposing upstate New York casinos make public pitches, face questions from board

Developers seeking permission to open casinos in upstate New York fielded questions about their finances and revenue projections Monday as they made direct pitches to the state's siting board.

The New York Gaming Facility Location Board is hearing two full days of in-person presentations from 16 casino applicants. Applicants used their 45-minute blocks to show slickly produced promotional videos, run through economic and revenue statistics and argue why they deserve a casino license over their regional competitors.

"We're 2 miles from the border. We have a direct highway access," said Jeff Gural, who runs Tioga Downs near the Pennsylvania state line, west of Binghamton. Tioga is among three applicants competing for a license in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region.

The state has authorized up to four casino licenses to be divided among three upstate regions: the Albany-Saratoga area, the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and the Catskills and mid-Hudson River Valley.

The board could choose to grant two licenses in one region but is not obligated to issue all four licenses when decisions are expected this fall. Amid signs of market saturation in the Northeast and the recent Atlantic City casino closings, some applicants and industry watchers say privately they aren't counting on the state initially granting all the licenses this fall.

The casinos were promoted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a way to boost economic development in lagging areas of upstate New York. Board members on Monday asked questions that suggested they were cognizant of new casinos "cannibalizing" business from one another or from existing gambling operations. Developers of the proposed Capital View Resort and Casino assured the board their Albany-area casino would not imperil their video lottery and harness track in nearby Saratoga Springs since they could grow the market.

And applicants Monday stressed their ability to create jobs.

Bill Walsh, the developer behind the Traditions Casino and Resort proposal near Binghamton, said the area is ailing and needs the boost his casino would bring.

"This is the right community," Walsh said. "We have the community support."

The Tioga and Traditions teams both argued they could "recapture" gambling dollars now going to casinos in Pennsylvania.

The Tioga team also said they would expect more than 90 percent of their revenues to come from gamblers residing within a 60-minute drive. Gural said he didn't think his current operation could survive if a new casino opened nearby in the Binghamton area.

Three additional public hearings on the proposals are scheduled for later in the month in Albany, Poughkeepsie and Ithaca to allow for public comment.