As investors and legislators continue to struggle over the rights to build new casinos in Northern New Jersey, New York welcomed its newest casino on Tuesday in Chittenango. The Yellow Brick Road Casino features a collection of hundreds of slot machines and plenty of happy employees, but the most prominent feature of the gambling floor for visitors is likely the four flying-monkey statues. For fans of The Wizard of Oz, these flying monkeys will come as no surprise, as the new casino features an entire gambling floor themed after the classic fantasy film.
While it’s all smiles within the casino’s walls, a battle is raging between the casino’s owner, the Oneida Indian Nation, and Wilmorite, a Rochester developer that’s announced plans to open a $425 million casino just 55 miles to the west. Despite being at least a year away from opening its new casino, Wilmorite has gotten the competition off to a booming start, with accusations of parasitic business plans and threats of litigation setting the stage for a casino turf war in the years to come.
The Yellow Brick Road, complete with 400 slot machines, a bingo hall and a Cyclone of Cash machine, is attempting to cash-in on a first mover advantage in the area. The property, along with the much larger Turning Stone Resort Casino, has placed the tribe in a strong strategic position moving forward, but the battle goes beyond friendly competition and into the courtroom. In April, Washington law firm Williams & Connolly drafted a letter on behalf of Oneida requesting that the State Gaming Commission deny Wilmorite a license, claiming that another casino in such close proximity could have ‘a devastating effect’ on the tribe.
Through all of the protests, Wilmorite’s casino, which will be called the Lago, will open as planned as a result of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013, which allows for the operation of up to seven new, nontribal casinos across the state. The legislation, which ended decades of land and legal disputes, has been praised by Governor Andrew Cuomo as a way to jump-start the economy in suffering regions north of New York City.
The Lago Casino, along with two others in the area, was chosen by the state’s Gaming Facilities Location Board in an effort to stimulate economic growth throughout the region, and Wilmorite has acknowledged that a portion of its revenues will come at the expense of existing competitors. According to an analysis by TMG Consulting, an estimated $78.5 million of the Lago’s first year of operation will be taken from tribal casinos, showing the legitimacy of Oneida’s concerns. Additional casinos, one in the Catskills and another in Schenectady, will also impede on Turning Stone’s current area of influence.
Despite the recent decline of Atlantic City’s casino industry, markets throughout New England continue to utilize gambling in an effort to increase revenue and promote economic growth. As the region’s new casinos move toward completion, the New York gambling market is on the brink of significant shifts in the current gambling landscape.