Last Monday, the state Gaming Commission voted to award commercial casino licenses for the Montreign Resort in Sullivan County, the Rivers Casino & Resort  in Schenectady and the Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, Seneca County.

The Commission’s decision comes more than a year after the state Gaming Facility Location Board, which was tasked with reviewing casino proposals, chose the three projects. The Gaming Facility Location Board approved a fourth casino license for Tioga Down in October, but the Commission has not completed its review and so its application was not voted upon.

The Oneida Indian Nation said that it plans to file a legal challenge to the Lago project. In a statement, the Oneidas said:

“This decision was marred by conflicts of interest, contradictory standards and total disregard for public interest. The outcome hurts Central New York, which violates Governor Cuomo’s stated purposes of the gaming law. For months, countless community and business leaders, elected officials and individual New Yorkers have spotlighted these problems to the gaming commission. Unfortunately, the decision was forced through by public officials who were blindly committed to this project and abandoned the public trust. We are left with no choice but to turn to the courts. Litigation is necessary when public officials abandon their public responsibilities.”

Unshackle Upstate did not take a position on the expansion of commercial casinos in the state, but we do not the Upstate economy getting any significant economic boost from new casinos.  While there will likely be some new tourism dollars and new economic activity generated, it appears that such benefits will be relatively small.  It’s also likely that the state’s existing gambling operations (which include Indian-run casinos and race track VLT facilities) will suffer.

We think that the better plan for the long term is the one we laid out in our 2016 policy agenda – broad-based tax relief, reducing regulatory burdens and taking other steps to improve the state’s overall business climate, such as rejecting a $15 minimum wage.  These are steps that will help support the creation of the good-paying jobs that Upstate New York needs.