Local racinos worried casino proposal could force them to fold

By Matt Porter

June 11, 2013 Updated Jun 12, 2013 at 1:07 AM EDT

Nichols, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The lobbying group for local racinos, such as Tioga Downs, says recent negotiations for new casino proposals could favor bigger gaming companies from out of state.

The New York Gaming Association revealed recent proposals include a $50 million dollar upfront license fee for any new casino, an enormous expense for smaller racinos that already do business across the state.

Racinos are horse tracks that include video gaming and slot machines. They are not allowed to have table games or other Las Vegas-style gambling.

Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural said the asking price for a casino is set too high.

"Every district is different and the Southern Tier where I am," Gural said, "To ask for a $50 million up-front fee makes it unfeasible."

In exchange for the higher fee, New York would take less from gaming revenue, Gural said, possibly as little as 25 percent.

Gural, who also owns Vernon Downs, said his casinos pay more without a license because the state collects 67 percent of their revenue.

Gural said bigger gaming companies like those in Las Vegas could afford the upfront fee. But he adds it could take years for them to come in and build a new casino.

"We can convert into a casino in less than six months," he said.

Tioga Downs already employees 600 employees, and contributes more than $40 million to New York education each year.

Gural said if another casino moved in any closer to him, he'd be forced to close.

Sen.Tom Libous (R-52nd) agrees a $50-million license is too high.

And he said an agreement is not ready to be put on the table.

"I think we're still a long way off from a final agreement and we don't want to jump to any conclusions," Libous said.

Libous said he is committed to helping Tioga Downs, which has plans to build a hotel resort casino in Nichols.

He said he hopes his colleagues can come to an agreement before the session ends on June 20.

"We can't afford to miss out on another opportunity," Libous said. "We wait too long for too many things, and I think this is a good opportunity for us and we should go forward with it."

Legislators and the governor have until Aug. 5 to reach a deal if the casino proposals are to hit the ballot this November.

Voters across New York will have to approve any proposal agreed to by the legislature and governor.