Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack

Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack

Finger Lakes Photo

Finger Lakes Sues Over Proposed Casino

Racetrack says another facility in crowded market could force its closure.

The owner of Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in upstate New York is asking a state judge to halt the awarding of a license for a new commercial casino located just 25 miles away from the 1960s-era racetrack.

With the track's horsemen's organization already having said Finger Lakes is likely to close if the casino is allowed to be built so close by, Delaware North, a Buffalo, N.Y., company that owns Finger Lakes, has filed litigation in state Supreme Court in Albany trying to block the Lago Casino & Resort from getting licensed by the state.

Lago, to be built near the state Thruway between Rochester and Syracuse, would get 67% of its revenue from existing casinos spread between Vernon Downs Racetrack & Casino and the Oneida Nation's Turning Stone casino located east of Utica westward to Finger Lakes and at western New York harness tracks and facilities run by the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The lawsuit said Finger Lakes invested $12 million in its video lottery terminal operation in 2013, boosting by 29% the number of gaming devices. "Despite this, Finger Lakes gross gaming revenue has been essentially flat when compared to the previous year. Add the significant lost revenue resulting from cannibalization, Finger Lakes will be unable to recoup its investment and will be driven out of business," the lawsuit states.

A New York State Gaming Commission panel in December tapped three locations for new commercial casinos: Tyre in Seneca County, located near Finger Lakes; an old manufacturing site in downtown Schenectady located near Albany; and in Sullivan County at a site being developed by the owners of Monticello Raceway, which has a VLT casino.

In making its decision, the panel ruled out consideration of applications from developers looking to locate casinos in Orange County because their sites, which are closer to New York City, would harm the ability of the Sullivan County site in the Catskill Mountains to succeed. But Finger Lakes, in its lawsuit, said the state panel failed to use the same standard to consider the economic impact on existing tracks and casinos with the selection of the Tyre site.

The decision to award the Tyre site was "strikingly inconsistent and contradictory" to the intent of the state legislature to expand economic development opportunities upstate.

Finger Lakes Racing Association, in its lawsuit, cited a study warning that $100 million from existing tracks and casinos will be "cannibalized" by Lago if the casino is allowed to open. The Lago casino is located in one of three sprawling geographic areas to which the first round of casino developments were permitted to be sited.

Originally, lawmakers and others believed that region's casino would be located far to the south in the Binghamton area, but the approved geographic boundary was extended to include a narrow slice of the state northward to Lake Ontario, which included the tiny town of Tyre.

The racing and gaming operation at Finger Lakes employs 550 people, and 1,200 others in the area have jobs, such as breeding and farming operations, that rely on the facility, the court papers say.

The lawsuit seeks to annul the December selection and to block the NYSGC from awarding the Tyre casino a license to operate. "Finger Lakes is faced with going out of business," the lawsuit states.

The Lago developers and the NYSGC declined to comment on the lawsuit.