I’m not gonna lie; I’m a big fan of Turning Stone Casino. I’ve been a fan since it first opened in the early 90’s when, compared to the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it seemed barely like a casino I’d ever seen. Yet it was flashy and I enjoyed myself, especially once I stopped playing the slots and started playing poker in the early 2000’s, before the “hold-em” poker phase. I’m especially fond of their Season’s Harvest Buffet, where I once got to meet Ray Halbritter; cool indeed!

Turning Stone in October

I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately as it feels like the central New York area is suddenly being saturated with new casinos. Maybe nothing like the other two cities I mentioned, but in February the casino at Exit 41, Del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre (their official address is Waterloo, but it’s actually in Tyre), will open, and it’s about 10 minutes closer to where I live in Liverpool than Turning Stone. There’s also the Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, which is owned by Turning Stone so I guess that doesn’t necessarily count as much… although it does.

You might think that’s it, that’s enough. Nope! There’s also Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady and a possible casino (I haven’t heard if that one’s been finalized yet) in the Binghamton area. I’m not including the Batavia Downs Casino, the new slots at Vernon Downs, the casino in Buffalo and the one in Niagara Falls and one that’s been proposed to be in downtown Rochester (goodness!).

I’m not necessarily against casinos; actually, I’m not against them at all. What I am kind of against is over-saturating an area with too much of the same thing. For instance, I think Liverpool NY has way too many Dunkin’ Donuts (I live less than 10 minutes from 7 of them). This area was almost consumed by almost a dozen MRI centers in the early 90’s. And don’t get me started on all the drug stores, some within a couple of blocks of each other.

Why does Turning Stone work so well?

First, it was centrally located. Sure, it wasn’t Syracuse, but people from Rochester to Westchester County pretty much had the same distance in driving to get there.

Second, it brought in a lot of traffic from outside the state. Because it’s on the Oneida Nation property, people under age 18 were allowed to play, whereas the existing casinos in other states limited poker players under the age of 21.

Third, their growth has been astounding over the past 20 or so years. I can’t think of a time when they weren’t constructing something new, to the extent that they have 3 world class golf courses (I don’t golf) and bring in some of the top entertainment talents from around the world.

Then again, it’s easy when you don’t have any competition. What happens now that they’ll have lots of competition and probably lose at least 50% of their potential consumers? The surrounding counties aren’t going to send enough people to stay at their hotels, golf is seasonal, and I don’t believe some of these other locations won’t try to cash in on their convention business. I know already that the new casino opening in February already has a quality line up of performers booked including Flo Rida, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and Bad Company; not bad for a startup.

My worry is that the outside casinos will cannibalize the casinos within central New York, and that the outside casinos won’t be able to sustain themselves, especially since some of them don’t offer table games at the present time. Maybe they’ll follow the model of the racetrack casinos, which bolster slots with a few high quality restaurants and, at least at a couple of them, still offer horse racing. Then again, a couple of the new casinos will still have to tout the 21 or older mantra (such as Del Lago) since they’re not on a reservation, so that might help some.

I’m wondering what the opinion of others might be about the issue I’ve brought up above. If you’re totally against gambling, your response might be a bit skewed, but I welcome those comments as well.