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Opinion

Roll the dice on the Southern Tier

Our area would benefit tremendously from one of the few casino gambling licenses

Since the November 2013 New York state election, one big question has been looming over the Southern Tier: Which business will receive one of the four precious casino gambling licenses to be distributed to the upstate New York area by the fall of 2014?

These sought-after licenses were recently permitted by the NYS Legislature after the passage of Proposition 1.

The purpose of this amendment to Section 9 of Article 1 of the NYS Constitution “is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos” within New York. Four of these casinos will be opened in upstate New York starting in late 2014. The remaining three will be opened seven years after and run in New York City around 2020.

One of the casinos will be opened right here in the Southern Tier, another near Saratoga and one other in the Catskills, while the fourth will be a wild card pick drawn from those three areas.

Four power player businesses (three local and one out-of-area) are vying for the license to be distributed to the Southern Tier. They are Tioga Downs Casino (located in Tioga County), Traditions at the Glen (located in the Town of Union), Vista Hospitality Company (owner of the Holiday Inn Arena in Binghamton) and Wilmorite Properties (out of the Rochester area).

These influential companies have been persistently competing since the passage of Proposition 1 for the license to be issued to the Southern Tier. Like me, you’ve probably seen the countless commercials, computer advertisements, TV broadcasts and so forth that demonstrate the cutthroat nature of this competition.

And when will all this end? The New York State Gaming Commission will put out a request for proposal, or RFP, next month from any company interested in the license. This will be due by the end of June, which leaves a decision to be made by fall 2014.

You may ask, what does this mean? How much does this even matter to our area and school? A lot.

Whether the casino is opened in Tioga County, the Town of Union or Binghamton, the business, publicity and money are brought to the Southern Tier area.

The Triple Cities would grow exponentially. New jobs would be created. Increased aid would be distributed to local school districts. Local governments could reduce property taxes with the increase in tax assessment from one of these new businesses. The opportunity this proposition presents will result in definitive economic improvement not only to our school, but also to the community as a whole.

The real issue here is whether the “Southern Tier” license should be awarded to a true “Southern Tier” business. Wilmorite Properties is not located in the Southern Tier (regardless of the way in which the map was created by NYS). They’re not located in the Southern Tier, and there would be no benefit to the area if they were awarded a license.

Let’s hope the NYS Gaming Commission makes the right choice and gives the casino license to one of the true Southern Tier businesses.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.