Voters will have decisions to make on Tuesday
On Tuesday, when voters go to the polls, they will not only have decisions to make on who will represent them locally and county-wide, they will also have several propositions to vote on, with those propositions being located on the back of the ballot. Most important of those propositions, according to town and county lawmakers, is Proposition 1, a New York State law that would allow for seven casino licenses to be issued in New York State.
In a press conference held earlier, in which Tioga Downs Casino owner Jeff Gural addressed members from the media, he talked of the plans that would come to fruition for the River Road casino if he were granted one of these licenses - a license which would allow him to bring in table gaming.
Some of these plans that Gural spoke of were the construction of a hotel, spa, entertainment center, and an indoor parking garage. Gural also noted the jobs that would be created if this license were granted, with 300 construction jobs, and an additional 200 employees that would be added to the payroll.
"This is an economic bill," said President and CEO Tom Osiecki, Tioga Downs Casino. statewide, he noted, and according to the Business Council of New York, it would create 6,900 construction jobs and an estimated 3,100 permanent jobs if gaming is permitted in New York.
Tioga Downs is also community minded, and is now asking the community for their support in order to grow. Over the past several years, Tioga Downs has contributed over $650,000 to various organizations serving Tioga County to include the Southern Tier Food Bank, the Southern Tier Veterans Association, and provided vital support during the flooding of 2011. In particular, was the support to the local Nichols fire department that enabled the replacement of their rescue boat. A portion of buffet proceeds also benefitted the Elmira Salvation Army, Community Care Network and Athens, Pa.
Most important, and according to Jay Dinga from Tioga Downs, the primary purpose of asking for support is the economic benefit, and the additional dollars that would come into the county. According to Division of the Budget estimates, the projected annual revenue allocation accruing to counties and school districts from the Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act, in Tioga County alone, would be 1 million for school and property tax aide and over $600,000 in county distribution.
Because of the increased revenues projected, government officials gathered on Thursday at Tioga Downs to show their support for Proposition 1. Senator Tom O'Mara (R, C,-Big Flats), stated that allowing gaming in this area wouldn't be providing something that residents don't already have available to them if they want it. "We're not going to give them something they don't already have," said O'Mara, "we might as well bring the money here."
New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, spoke about tourism benefits if Proposition 1 passes, and a license is awarded here. "This is one component," said Lupardo. She continued, "People can visit the wineries while they are here and it would be a real boost to tourism."
I trust the addition of gaming will help with the growth of this county, and will be handled well," said Dale Weston, chair of the Tioga County Legislature. "This place sat empty for years," he said of the River Road location where Tioga Downs now sits, "Mr. Gural built this place up to what it is now, and I support this proposition and the growth it will provide."
Stella Reschke, Tioga County Tourism director, also stated the benefits to tourism during an earlier rally to support Proposition 1 that was held Tuesday at the Tioga County office building in Owego. Reschke talked of all the activities available within the county and the reasons why people should visit here, adding that table gaming will be another reason for people to travel to the area - and then shop and eat while they are here.
The process to authorize gaming was brought forth to New York lawmakers in June of 2012, and was voted on and passed. It was voted on again in November of 2012, and its passage led to a proposition being put before voters on Nov. 5 of this year.
"If this passes the vote," said Gural in an earlier conference, "then we will be allowed to apply for one of the seven licenses." He also added that he is confident that Tioga Downs would be selected as one of the seven once the application process is completed.
If voters in New York State allow for this type of gaming, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. At that time, the gaming commission would put together a site selection committee. According to Gural, they would have 90 days to put together a process. He added that by spring, he would most likely be able to apply.
If Tioga Downs is a selected site for a gaming license, Gural stated that the planned projects would move forward, and that the expansion would create at least 300 construction jobs, possibly 200 new hires, and 400 new jobs at the casino. He also mentioned the economic spillover (i.e. linens, supplies, etc.) from acquiring services needed for these projects.
"We need jobs in 2014 and not 2018," said Gural in an earlier conference, "and that will be my argument."