When Tioga Downs Casino opened in 2006 as one of New York’s “racinos,” CEO Jeff Gural said he took a chance that people wanted to gamble in the Southern Tier.
“I came here by myself and took a shot,” he said.
The risk paid off and he’s been able to bring in more than $60 million annually from the casino and race track.
This November could be Gural’s chance to do more.
Proposition 1 will ask voters whether or not to allow table and Las Vegas style gambling at four casinos, new or already existing racinos, in upstate New York.
Gural said he could do more if the state allowed expanded gaming.
“We don’t have as much ability to attract younger customers as out competitors,” Gural said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget office estimates the expansion of gaming could increase revenue for education and property tax relief by up to $430 million.
$20.1 million will likely end up in the hands of communities in the Southern Tier region.
Gural said because his casino is already in operation, it is uniquely positioned to build a resort fast if voters choose to expand gaming.
“People need jobs in 2014, not 2018,” Gural said.
He estimates he’d hire 200 employees with the new hotel and resort casino.
The proposition would open four casinos across upstate, and at least one in the Southern Tier/Central New York region.
Gural said people who don’t want gaming have already lost with Indian casinos already opened across the northeast.
“The people who would come here are going someplace else to gamble,” he said.
The vote doesn’t guarantee Tioga Downs a license.
If it passes, the New York Gaming Commission would assemble a committee of real estate experts to determine possible sites.
The commission would then put out request for proposals (RFPs) from prospective bidders.
If another casino opens up in the Southern Tier close to Binghamton, Gural said he might be forced to fold.
“There just isn’t enough business in this area for two casinos,” he said.
Gural said he will begin building a new indoor parking lot the day after the election if the vote passes.
As for the rest of the resort, he would have to wait and see if Tioga Downs gets one of the four licenses.
Gural said he thinks it could happen as early as the spring.