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Casino and horse track not viable for Bradford, study finds | News

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All bets are off for a casino to be built in Bradford.

Bradford officials had been pursuing the development of a casino accompanied by a horse racetrack, but results of a recently released economic study revealed the project would not be a good fit for the city.

“Had it been viable, it would have been a game-changer for the city and the community,” Mayor Tom Riel told The Era on Wednesday, adding that city property taxes would have been eliminated.

A casino could have brought $10 million to $12 million in revenue each year; the city receives $3 million from property taxes, he said, adding that other money would be brought into the city from the casino as well.

What’s more, the addition of a casino would have meant many more well-paying jobs in the city, he said.

A gaming facility –– if given the green light –– would have been the last remaining Category 1 license issued in the state, and would have included a horse racetrack and at least 1,500 slot machines and 50 game tables.

But developing a Category 1 casino and racetrack would have likely cost more than $400 million, CBRE Hotel pointed out in an economic development study. CBRE Hotel conducted research and analyzed data on the project.

CBRE Hotel also questioned the economics of operating the requisite horse racetrack.

A casino in Bradford would have gone head-to-head with the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, just about 20 minutes from the city in Salamanca, N.Y. That facility has an estimated 1,800 slot machines and 33 table games, as well as a parking garage, an event center and a 413-room hotel.

CBRE Hotels concluded that the pursuit of a Category 1 gaming license for the Bradford area may not be justified or a successful undertaking.

The consultant stated that the casino is a bad option for the Bradford area because of the “relative scarcity of population in the ‘primary’ market zone for both Seneca Allegany and Bradford combined with the lessened ability to attract demand from more remote markets as most of them now have local gaming alternatives.”

What's more, CBRE Hotels said the regional gaming market in general is too saturated.

The consultant, which said the Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino has “relatively lackluster and likely declining performance,” stated that the Senecas’ facility had been mostly paid for with relatively little debt to service. In addition, that casino is located off of Interstate 86 with some 9,000 vehicles per day passing, compared to U.S. Route 219 with some 4,400 vehicles per day passing.

One area being looked at was atop Jackson Avenue facing northeast, which could be seen from 219 but not from downtown Bradford, Riel said.

CBRE Hotels also said that Seneca Allegany doesn’t have to pay gaming revenue tax, whereas there is “some 55 percent on slot revenues and 12 percent on table game revenues in Pennsylvania, which provides it with much greater flexibility in (and funds for) keeping prices low; providing complimentaries to players and sponsoring/subsidizing events; its sovereign nation status enabling it to change its gaming rules, facilities and legal gaming age (now 21) to suit its competitive needs without getting governmental permission; and, its ability to joint-market with the other two SGA gaming operations and use the large customer database of the SGA.”

What happens now? If the state government changes the casino law or lowers the taxes, the concept could be revisited, Riel said.

On Tuesday, city council authorized an execution of an agreement for an economic development study and to approve payments to CBRE Inc. in the amount of $8,586 and to Doherty Strategies in the amount of $7,000. These efforts are being funded by donations made to the city.  

Doing the study was a gamble worth taking, Riel said.

He said the casino concept had been kept under wraps so neighboring municipalities didn't catch on and try to pursue the idea. Riel said he sought private donations to be used to cover the cost of the study.

“The (Office of Economic and Community Development of Bradford) had nothing to do with this. They were aware but they were not involved,” Riel said.

Bradford isn’t the only municipality to take a look at a casino plan. Mahoning Township in Lawrence County, north of Pittsburgh, was to be the location of Valley View Downs, but efforts failed because of financing.


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