Yesterday afternoon in Nichols the Tioga Downs Racetrack held a groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of the transformation and expansion of the facility into a full-scale casino.

The Southern Tier video lottery casino and racetrack’s application was rejected by the state board last year when four casino licenses were available. While New York voters approved up to seven new gambling venues in 2013, only three proposals out of the first four were approved – one in the Catskills, one in Schenectady, and one in the Finger Lakes area. Tioga Downs owner, Jeff Gural, said in December that efforts to eventually expand the racetrack would not be stopped, and nine months later the New York Gaming Facility Location Board selected it to be the state’s final full casino and recommended it be granted a license.

The New York State Gaming Commission has yet to grant any of the four approved projects their licenses. Gural said that while he hasn’t been notified as to when the license will be awarded, they plan to proceed with construction firing on all cylinders. According to local media equipment has already begun arriving at the site, a good indicator that work is set to begin soon. The existing complex features food and beverage options, wagering boards, harness racing track, and slot machines. Additional slot machines, a poker room, gaming tables for blackjack and roulette, as well as a new dining facility will all be part of the multi-million dollar expansion which will convert the facility into a regional entertainment destination.

In addition to those transformations, once Tioga Downs Racing & Entertainment is granted a state license, construction will begin on an events center, a 161-room hotel and a spa which will be accessible through the gambling venue. Also part of the expansion plan is a 12,000-seat outdoor concert venue. Rooftop terraces and an outdoor pool will be added at some point too. Expected to cost upwards of $135 million, Gural hopes the expanded facility will be completed and be able to open on July 4 of the coming year. The construction is expected to create 500 temporary jobs and upon completion of the facility, 500 permanent positions.