On October 14 the New York Gaming Facility Location Board selected Tioga Downs Casino & Racing to be the state’s final full casino after being passed over by the board when they announced license recommendations earlier this year for Finger Lakes, the Catskills and Schenectady, but none for the Southern Tier.

Approval from the three-member board means that Jeff Gural, the nine-year-old racino’s owner can submit an application to the Gaming Commission for a license, which if approved would allow Gural to convert his facility into a $195 million regional entertainment destination upon clearing an extensive background check.

After Governor Andrew Cuomo received criticism from Binghamton-area officials and Gural himself, the governor requested that bidding be re-opened for the fourth available license and the only bidder was Tioga Downs. The board originally opted against awarding a fourth license, but then agreed, limiting bidding to the Southern Tier. Gruel plans on investing his own money in the conversion which will include a hotel, concert venue and a hotel. The nod confirms the community and civic leader’s belief that the project would give the struggling region a much needed economic boost.

Currently Tioga Downs offers live harness racing, video lottery terminals, video poker and electronic roulette. The transformation into a full casino gaming resort would include table games which are currently prohibited. Expected to create 840 new direct and indirect jobs, building on the 310 full-time equivalent jobs the facility now utilizes, the expansion represents a significant investment in spending for New York State and Gruel’s application will focus on that.

Supporting the outside analysis contained in the application, it’s estimated that wages and salaries would nearly double for Tioga Downs work force which would also grow. If allowed to expand up to $12 million in local and state tax revenue would be added.

In addition to the nod given to Tioga Downs, one of the original three license recommendations which was granted to Lago Resort & Casino in Upstate New York, received approval for its development plan last week. The application will now join the three other casino-license applications at the State Gaming Commission where their fate will be decided.