Blood Horse

Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack has started construction on a $12 million expansion of its video lottery terminal facility.

The western New York track will increase its number of VLTs from 1,200 to 1,500, add a 102-seat restaurant, and construct a bar and lounge with a 16-foot high-definition projection screen, according to a recent release.

This year marks the ninth for VLT gaming at Finger Lakes, which offers about 160 days of live Thoroughbred racing each year. The track’s 2013 schedule wasn’t immediately available.

“The addition of gaming operations and subsequent annual growth has allowed us to generate over $430 million for education in New York State since 2004, create several hundred jobs, stabilize the racing industry locally, and ultimately create an economic impact of over $120 million annually,” Finger Lakes president and general manager Chris Riegle said. “We look forward to the further enhancement of our operations to not only provide guests with additional amenities and a greater level of comfort, but also to strengthen our impact economically on a local, regional, and state level.”

For the first 10 months of fiscal year 2012-13, which began last April, VLTs at Finger Lakes produced a net win of $106.8 million, according to the New York Lottery. Of that amount, 46.79% ($49.9 million) went to the state for education, and 31% ($33.1 million) was collected by track owner Delaware North Companies.

By law, a percentage of the track commission goes toward purses–called “horse racing subsidies” by the New York Lottery.

VLT gaming began at Finger Lakes in February 2004. That year the track offered 157 days of racing with total purses of $16.6 million (an average of $105,755 per day), according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

In 2012 the track raced 161 days with total purses of $18.6 million (an average of $115,616 per day), according to TJCIS.

Finger Lakes is a member of the New York Gaming Association, a group of racetracks lobbying to expand from VLT-only casinos to full-scale gaming destinations. Reigle said the latest expansion is part of an $80 million plan by Delaware North to build a hotel, restaurants, and provide other amenities if Finger Lakes is awarded a full casino license.

“While current business levels dictate moving forward with a portion of the expansion plan, this only scratches the surface of what the property could grow into if given the ability to move forward with full casino gaming,” Riegle said. “Our proven track record of growth, job creation, and revenue generation for state and local governments is one we look forward to continuing to enhance in the future.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said he supports full non-tribal casinos for upstate New York but he has been dismissive of expanding racetrack casinos. The New York Gaming Association was formed to make a case for racetrack casinos, of which there are nine; most are located in upstate New York.