By Elizabeth Cooper
Though hundreds of people joined a protest in Albany against the Lago Resort Casino this week, it’s not clear whether it will have any impact.
The law that governs the casino licensing process is clear about what can and can’t derail the applications, state Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park said.
A year ago, the state Gaming Facility Location Board recommended three casino applications for approval, including Lago’s. A fourth was awarded to Tioga Downs this fall.
Now, it’s up to the Gaming Commission to review and approve the recommendations, Park said.
“The Gaming Facility Location Board’s decisions are sound and thoroughly justified in its nearly 800 page report and findings,” Park said in an emailed statement. “The law does not give the ability of the Commission to review the merits of the Board’s license recommendation.”
Rather, the Commission “is obligated to review the suitability and background of the applicant,” he said.
Since the recommendation of Lago was announced last winter, area officials and also the Oneida Indian Nation have been vocal in their opposition to the $425 million project.
Tyre, where Lago is set to rise, is just 80 miles from the Oneida Nation’s Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona. Syracuse, a major market for Turning Stone, is midway between Tyre and western Oneida County. Additionally, Lago developers have said publicly that 50 percent of their visitors likely will be pulled from the clientele of existing venues.
The Oneida Nation and Delaware North, which owns Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack — which could also stand to lose visitors to Lago — helped organize the Albany rally, and some of their employees participated.
The criteria the Gaming Commission must use assess the recommended casino applications for disqualification include:
Supplying false or misleading information in their application.
Having one of its team with a criminal conviction, a pattern of misconduct rendering them unsuitable; or close associates who have such issues.
Failing to meet the financial requirements deemed necessary.
The Oneida Nation has been working to provide evidence that Lago should be disqualified. The Nation points to what it terms “cannibalization” of its business by Lago, and contends that another casino proposed for Orange County was rejected because it would pull business from existing casinos.
The Nation also says the Lago application may be incomplete and that the Review Board failed to take legal actions against Lago into consideration.
“In approving commercial gaming in New York, the legislature mandated that the state Gaming Commission conduct its own, independent review of the eligibility of applications to reassure New Yorkers that the purpose of gaming legislation is being fulfilled,” said Oneida Nation spokesman Joel Barkin. “The commission cannot abandon this duty.”