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A Southern Tier casino proposal endorsed by state regulators

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BEVERAGEEVENTS.COM
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NICHOLS, N.Y. (AP)  Plans to expand a racetrack casino in New York's Southern Tier into a full resort casino were endorsed Wednesday by state gambling regulators, a pivotal step toward bringing expanding gambling _ and the promise of tourism and jobs _ to one of the state's most disadvantaged regions. 

Tioga Downs in Nichols plans to expand its existing gambling hall to include table games and add a 161-room hotel, new restaurants and a concert venue once it receives a state casino license from the state Gaming Commission. The state's Gaming Facility Location Board recommended the plan Wednesday. 

Tioga submitted an initial casino proposal last year, only to see the location board instead endorse three other projects in the Catskills, the Finger Lakes and in Schenectady. The rejection stung not only Tioga's owner, Jeff Gural, but also local leaders and residents who complained that the Southern Tier had been overlooked. 

Gural revised his proposal after Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for bidding to be reopened for a fourth available license. The new plan included additional amenities and a larger equity investment. No other contenders emerged for the license.

``It's a whole lot more than lipstick,'' Kevin Law, the chairman of the location board, said of the changes. 

Tioga projects that it will generate $32 million in tax revenues in 2019 and create more than 1,000 jobs through the expansion. 

The proposal now goes to the Gaming Commission, which will conduct criminal background checks of the development team and finalize other reviews before the casino license is formally awarded. It could take at least several months; the three projects endorsed last year are still awaiting their licenses. 

Gural said a celebration at Tioga is planned for the coming weeks. Plans call for the first table games to be operational within six months of the license being granted.