After a selection and investigation process that lasted more than two years, on Tuesday, August 30 the New York State Gaming Commission granted Tioga Downs a casino license making it the fourth full-scale upstate casino, according to BloodHorse.com.

Real-estate executive and racing enthusiast Jeff Gural, who in partnership with Nevada Gold and Casinos purchased the former Tioga Park for $32 million in 2005, had been looking to upgrade the facility to a full-fledged casino for quite some time. The 4-0 vote by the commission on Tuesday means that the facility located in Nichols, New York could begin to offer slot machines and table games as early as November. The Standardbred track in New York’s Southern Tier region currently has approximately 795 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).

Gural lobbied for state approval of VLTs at racetracks since 2000, and in 2005, they were approved. On June 9, 2006, Tioga Downs opened, offering VLTs, harness racing, and simulcast betting. After spending a good deal of money to help promote an amendment to the state’s constitution that legalized commercial casinos in the state, on November 18, 2013, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to expand Tioga Downs. The venue was denied a recommendation by the New York Gaming Commission’s siting locations board in 2014, however, the decision was revisited by the board and recommended Tioga Downs for the state’s fourth upstate casino license last year. And in March this year, a topping off ceremony was held.

The license was approved by the Gaming Commission without any public debate. Following the vote, Gural shook hands and spoke with commission members and said, “I really feel good for the people up there (in the Southern Tier), to be honest. I don’t have to worry about Jeff Gural, but for people in the Southern Tier, this is a real big development,” as reported by the Press & Sun-Bulletin‎.

While Tioga Downs has to wait for the Gaming Commission to complete a process to regulate the expanded forms of gambling, which should be finalized in November, it is expected to be the first of four new casinos to open. Later, del Lago Resort & Casino near Tyre, Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar near Thompson, and Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, will follow.

Construction on the major expansion of the facility, which Gural has pledged an investment of at least $122.6 million, is nearly complete. The approved project calls for a 33,300-square-foot casino, with 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, poker room, as well as a 161-room hotel, outdoor entertainment area, and restaurants.

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