Tioga Downs Casino

Tioga Downs Casino overview

What started in 2006 as a relatively small county-fair-themed Standardbred racetrack with 800 Video Lottery Terminals became New York state’s first officially licensed commercial casino when the new Tioga Downs Casino opened up in December 2016.

New York voters supported a constitutional amendment in 2013 authorizing the issue of a number of commercial gaming licenses throughout the state. A year later, licenses were granted to three projects, including:

  • The del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo
  • Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady; and
  • The Montreign Resort and Casino in the Catskills

The Tioga Downs Racino was unsuccessful in its bid for a license. However, the organization successfully campaigned to re-open the bidding process and was granted a full gaming license later that year.

The New Tioga Downs Casino was the first to open up in December 2016 despite being the last of four licenses granted. The del Lago Resort & Casino was next, opening its doors on February 1, 2017. Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, NY opened up a week later. The Montreign Resort and Casino has plans to begin operating in the Catskills in the spring of 2018.

Tioga Downs Casino is located in Nichols, NY. This is halfway between Binghamton and Elmira. The gaming floor features a variety of popular slots and casino games, including:

  • Blackjack
  • Craps
  • Roulette
  • Pai Gow Poker
  • Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em
  • Let It Ride
  • 3-Card Poker
  • 4-Card Poker
  • Big 6 Wheel

Tioga Downs’ $134 million expansion

Tioga Downs Casino began a $134 million expansion after being granted its commercial casino license. This ultimately saw the gaming floor expanded to 33,000 square feet. The casino now boasts almost 1,000 new slot machines and as many as 40 different table games.

The property’s Winner’s Circle Lounge was re-purposed as the casino’s new Poker Room. It opened with 12 tables and space for 120 players. The almost 800 VLTs on site were all replaced by up-to-date and modern slot machines including recently released titles and casino favorites.

Potential for online gambling lies in horse racing links

Tioga Downs Casino owner Jeff Gural is a former NY real estate mogul who has long professed his love for the horse racing industry. He has also expressed a desire to revive it through the addition of casino gaming at racetracks. In 2000, he successfully lobbied for New York state approval of Video Lottery Terminals at racetracks before buying the long-shuttered Tioga Park and installing 800 VLTs.

Despite being denied a license to operate a commercial casino at the property in 2014, Gural didn’t give up. He forced New York legislators to reconsider and add a fourth license just for Tioga Downs.

He released plans to build a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack in Northern New Jersey last year that was ultimately denied by New Jersey voters. However, Gural has continued to prove he is an industry leader when it comes to casino gaming at racetracks. Should he become convinced that online casino gaming could help the continued revival of the horse racing industry, there’s little doubt he would get behind it. He would likely also use his considerable political influence to get it done.

Plans to legalize online casinos aren’t on the agenda for New York legislators in 2018, but should that change, Gural isn’t likely to oppose it.

New York gaming goes step by step

Legislators in New York state have long taken a step-by-step approach to gaming expansion. It started with the opening of the Turning Stone Resort Casino in 1993. The race track industry, including Gural, then successfully lobbied to bring VLTs to a number of its properties. Saratoga Raceway became the first to do so in 2004. Racinos are now all over the state and many now host electronic table games as well, including the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. It became the first casino-style property to open inside New York City’s five boroughs in 2011.

Next was the approval of the four new commercial casinos in the state. Now, legislators are taking steps towards the introduction of legal and regulated online poker. Should the next step be legalized and regulated casino games, Gural appears very likely to want to jump on board, seeing online gaming as an additional measure to help support the horse racing industry.

Online poker potential

Westchester Assemblyman and the State Assembly’s Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering, J. Gary Pretlow, introduced legislation which would legalize and regulate online poker in the state of New York in early 2017. Pretlow claimed he sees very little standing in the way of such legislation. He also said all of New York’s licensed casino and Racino properties have indicated they are in full support of it.

Nonetheless, the bill went nowhere in the Assembly in 2017. The bill was still alive and in committee at the start of 2018.

This would presumably include Tioga Downs Casino, which opened up a 12-table live Poker room on the property in December 2016. Gural appears to have very little experience in the online poker industry. However, if he can become convinced that legislation allowing existing brick and mortar casino properties online poker operator licenses will be a boost to the horse racing industry, there’s little doubt he’ll get behind it.

More casino and track amenities coming soon

Tioga Downs Casino began construction of a 161-room hotel, spa and a 6,500 square foot event and banquet center in September 2016. It opened in October 2017.

There are already a half a dozen restaurant and bar options on the property. This includes:

  • The County Fair Buffet
  • Coasters Sports Bar
  • The Sideshow Lounge
  • Virgil’s Real BBQ

Both the Sideshow Lounge and Virgil’s Real BBQ feature live entertainment.

Tioga Downs Casino also offers a summer concert series at its outdoor stage.

The complex offers seasonal live harness racing and the casino floor is state of the art, featuring USB charging stations at many of the slots and gaming machine bases.

Plans are also in place to open up and 18-hole golf course and country club off-site.

Tioga Downs Casino offers patrons free entry into its Player’s Club. Player’s Club members are eligible to receive discounts on the property and rewards including complimentary concert tickets.

Points can be redeemed in:

  • The gift shop
  • Virgil’s Real BBQ
  • Coasters Sports Bar
  • The County Fair Buffet
  • The Hotel (upon completion)
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