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Tioga Downs today got the official go ahead to expand into a full-scale casino after applying twice for a state gaming license.

The New York State Gaming Commission unanimously approved the commercial gaming license. It means that Tioga Downs in the town of Nichols will expand into a Las Vegas-style casino with 1,000 slot machines, 50 gaming tables and a 161-room hotel.

The $123 million expansion is supposed to create 1,100 jobs. Currently, Tioga Downs is a racino with harness racing and video games.

The license is the fourth and final the state can award under a 2013 expansion of gambling meant to help the Upstate economy.

In late 2014, the state awarded three casinos in three regions eligible for gaming complexes – in the Catskillsthe Finger Lakes and the Capital Region.

The Finger Lakes region also included the Southern Tier. At the time, state officials chose the del Lago Resort & Casino project in Seneca County over the Tioga expansion. They could have, however, awarded two licenses in that region.

The move left the Southern Tier, an Upstate region suffering economically, without a casino. It also drew sharp criticism from leaders in that part of the state.

State officials quickly offered to reopen bids for the fourth and final license. The license application was open to other developers; in the end, only Tioga Downs' owner Jeff Gural applied

Tioga Downs estimates its operation will create $32 million in tax revenue each year. That money will be distributed as follows:
• $25.6 million for school aid statewide
• $3.2 million for surrounding counties in the Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes Region
• $1.6 million for Tioga County
• $1.6 million for the Town of Nichols


The Tioga Downs license fee of $20 million will be distributed using the same formula.

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