Tioga Downs Owner Says It’s Time For New York Casinos To Reopen

Written By Matthew Kredell on August 24, 2020

Following last week’s protest by casino employees, one casino owner hopes to get word this week that New York casinos can reopen.

Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino, told PlayNY that, after bowling alleys reopened last week, he thinks New York casinos are next.

“It’s costing the state about $100 million a month in tax revenue for casinos and racinos to be closed,” Gural said. “I’m hoping we’ll get authorization to reopen [this week].”

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives casinos the green light, he says Tioga Downs has a health and sanitation program ready to put in place.

“If they give us protocols [this week], we can get them done and be ready to reopen in a week’s time,” Gural stated. “It will be helpful so my employees know not to look for other jobs.”

Tioga Downs safety protocols

Tioga Downs joins Resorts World Catskills in releasing safety plans they hope will urge Cuomo to authorize their reopening.

Many of the measures to protect customers and employees are similar to those of Resorts World. They include:

  • Employee testing: Prior to returning to work, all employees have to pass a COVID-19 test and receive training on safety and sanitation protocols.
  • Temperature checks: Employees and guests receive noninvasive temperature checks before entering the facility. Those with temperatures over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be permitted to enter.
  • Sanitizing stations: Hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout the property.
  • Plexiglass barriers: Barriers will be installed at cage windows, pari-mutuel windows and simulcast windows.
  • Improved air filtration: An air plasma generator and UV duct system reduce microorganisms and pollutants by 99%. Air filters have been upgraded.

Gural wants the casino to reopen at 50% capacity. Table games and poker might not be an initial part of the reopening.

“Initially, I’m thinking we may not open with table games,” Gural said. “But I think table games can be done safely as long as people wear masks. And in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, everyone wears masks.”

Employees of New York casinos rally support

Workers at three New York commercial casinos took to the state capitol Thursday asking Cuomo to allow casinos to reopen. The casinos were ordered to close on March 16.

Earlier this month, Cuomo stated casinos were not essential. Gural believes the employees who rallied in Albany showed otherwise.

“I think the employees did a good job of getting the message out that it’s really hurting. Casinos may not be essential but they’re essential to the 10,000 people working in the industry because they need a paycheck. I would be disappointed if we didn’t see something fairly soon that allows us to open.”

Evidence mounting for safe NY casino reopening

Once the epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak in the US, New York is seeing record lows in many key data points.

And most of the outbreak occurred in and around New York City. Located in the southwest part of the state, Tioga County had 206 recorded cases to date through Aug. 23.

“Where we are, the number of people who test positive some days is zero,” Gural said. “Practically no one is sick.”

The eight tribal casinos in New York reopened more than a month ago. While that upset owners of the four commercial casinos in New York, it also served as a proof of concept for safety measures.

According to Gural,

“We know it’s safe to reopen because the eight tribal casinos have been open for a month and there hasn’t been a spike. But when all of the casinos that surround the four of us are open, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense that we’re closed. Our customers are just going to the casinos that are open.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell reports on efforts to legalize sports wagering and online casino gaming around the country. He covered the multi-year effort to legalize online sports betting in New York from the beginning. He talks to state lawmakers, lobbyists and industry representatives to get the scoop on new gambling developments in the Empire State and was at the forefront when the state budget included the authorization of legal online sports betting in 2021. Matthew has covered the legal gambling industry since 2007, getting into regulated sports betting three years later. An alum of USC, Matthew began his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has also contributed to publications that include Playboy, Men’s Journal and ESPN.

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