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Tioga Downs Casino opens in New York

Sun, Dec 4, 4:16pm by Staff Writer

New York ushered in a new era of state-sanctioned gambling aimed at reversing decades of upstate decline on Friday (Saturday AEDT) with the first of four planned casinos opening with a flurry of balloons, confetti and uncertain visions of economic resurgence.

However, big questions remain as to whether the state’s bet on gambling will lead to the jobs and economic activity hoped for by state and local officials.

Tioga Downs Casino is the first casino to open in New York since voters authorized state-regulated gambling facilities in 2013. 944 slot machines, 33 table games and an adjacent 161-room hotel is currently under construction.

The New York casino will soon be joined by gambling halls in Schenectady, the Finger Lakes and the Catskills. New York’s Indian tribes already operate five Vegas-style casinos.

At Friday’s ribbon-cutting at Tioga Downs, located in the small town of Nichols, in the state’s Southern Tier. Fred Akshar, the Republican State Senator said more money is going to flow into local schools.

“You have planted the seed of hope.” Akshar said, thanking the casino’s owner.

Casinos are no longer the economic silver bullet they once were considered and more are coming, not just in New York: Casinos are opening in Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island and elsewhere, leading some gambling analysts to question whether the market is saturated.

University of Nevada-Reno Professor Mark Nichols, who researches the economics of casinos said “They’re certainly not going to bring those areas back to their former glory. The days of really large facilities that attract from a very wide market have left us.”

Projections are that it will create 800 jobs and generate $32 million in annual government revenue with Tioga Downs operating an electronic gambling hall and a racetrack. State regulators also awarded it a license to expand into a resort casino with Las Vegas-style table games like poker and blackjack.

Owner Jeff Gural said that it will primarily serve customers from within 50 miles and that building a larger casino wouldn’t have made financial sense given the market. The state board that recommended Tioga for a casino license cited its more modest size as a benefit.

Many local residents and business owners came out to celebrate Tioga’s opening on Friday. Radio station owner Dave Radigan said one casino can’t reverse decades of economic decline. But to an area tired of hearing bad economic news, he said, it comes down to “jobs, lots and lots of jobs.”

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