On Wednesday, Sept. 24, literally hundreds gathered at the Hotel Ithaca on S. Cayuga St. in Ithaca, N.Y. for a public comment session with the Gaming Board Commission relative to the issuance of a gaming license within the Southern Tier. The session began at 8 a.m. and was expected to run until 8 p.m.
As a veteran paratrooper, former writer for the Department of Defense, and current Editor for several weekly publications to include Tri-Village (Interlaken, Watkins Glen, Trumansburg and Ithaca), Owego (covering Tioga County), and Troy, Pa. (covering Bradford and Sullivan Counties and beyond), I previously published my opinion regarding Tioga Downs in Nichols, N.Y. as a viable candidate, and deserving of the award of a full gaming license.
On Wednesday, I was offered five minutes to speak on behalf of Tioga Downs in a packed room with supporters of Tioga Downs. Also present at the comment session were those supporting a casino build at Traditions at the Glen in Johnson City, N.Y.; and Lago Resort and Casino, which has submitted an application to construct a facility in Tyre, N.Y.
With only five minutes to expand on my previously published opinions regarding Tioga Downs, it was difficult to talk about all of the benefits that have been derived since they opened in 2006, and the philanthropy of its owner and CEO & Chairman of American Racing & Entertainment LLC, Jeff Gural.
As a journalist, with over two decades of experience, to include coverage in areas of conflict for the Department of Defense, I discussed my personal viewpoints regarding journalism in a fashion that relates to Jeff Gural and his proposal for a full gaming license.
I explained that when I cover stories that are close to my heart, they often become award winning, and receive exposure in many publications and through social media avenues both nationwide, and often internationally.
For Gural, getting Proposition One on the ballot and gaining a gaming license is just as close to his heart, equally, and he will therefore succeed.
As a veteran, I applauded Gural’s efforts to support active military members and veterans. In fact, several hundred thousands of dollars have been awarded to veteran organizations by Gural, as well as significant funds donated to the Southern Tier Food Bank.
At a recent Trace Adkins concert, Gural made such a donation; and always has a presence at Tioga Downs, thanking veterans for their service.
Ironically, a military Reserve Center will be opening soon nearby Tioga Downs, and expansions to transition to a full gaming facility have already commenced.
Last Friday, Tioga Downs installed the final beam on a parking garage constructed by Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural; and plans for a hotel build, renovations to accommodate table gaming, and a partnership with Tioga Country Club if awarded a license are already in place.
The flood was also discussed.
When Tioga Downs opened in 2006, flooding occurred in the Southern Tier Region and Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural immediately utilized their own resources to deliver food and water to those affected. Tioga Downs did the same thing in 2011 following Tropical Storm Lee, and even offered a buffet to those directly affected by the flood.
As a flood victim, this generosity did not go unnoticed by myself, and many others who were affected.
Concluding my approximate five-minute talk, I reaffirmed that Jeff Gural holds the gaining of a license in his heart, and added that I can’t wait to see what he will do once he is awarded a license.
Upon the conclusion of my approximate 5-minute talk, one of the gaming board commission members stated that he had the opportunity to meet Gural last month in Albany, N.Y. when proposals were presented, and that he agreed with my comments regarding Jeff Gural and his generosity.
Others who spoke on Friday included representatives from the proposed Lago Resort and Casino; a group opposed to the construction of the Lago Resort and Casino; and Traditions at the Glen.
A decision on which facility will receive the license could arrive as soon as October.