As you walk through the aisles of the popular SavOn fill-up station on State Highway 31 in Canastota, New York, you’ll see all of the usual convenience items patrons have become accustomed to. But a trek down the furthest aisle reveals to the left an assortment of salty snacks, like potato chips and pretzels, while to the right sits an arrangement of shiny new slot machines.
The gas station, owned by the Oneida Indian Nation, received the approval of regulators from the New York State Gaming Commission to install 14 slot machines in the recesses of its store. Patrons can now fill up their tanks, and possibly even their wallets, when visiting the tribal-owned SavOn gas station.
The mini-gaming floor has been under construction for some time now, finally opening to the public on 9:00am Monday morning. The area in which the slot machines are located is in open view, but off-limits to anyone under the age of 18, ensuring that all regulatory guidelines are met. Interestingly enough, though, this is not the first time the convenience store has offered a way to gamble – outside of selling lottery tickets – to its adult-aged customers.
Reporters spoke to some of the patrons on hand Monday morning when the new slot machines were unveiled. Robert Thornton said he remembered the slot machine floor of old. “It used to be over there,” Robert said, gesturing to a different area of the store. Thornton had fond memories of those days, and hopes to experience more wins on the new mini-gaming floor. “I used to win money here. You never know, so hopefully [I’m] lucky.”
Kelly Abdo, Public Relations Manager for Oneida’s Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona, New York, corroborated Thornton’s recollection. “Ten years ago, we had some slot machines here. But you had to have money on your card,” said Abdo, and, “you had to go over to the resort to put money on your card. So it wasn’t as convenient for our guests.” As a result, the slot machines were removed from the SavOn station years ago.
As for why the tribe decided after so long to reinstall slot machines at the gas station, Abdo said, “We’re always trying to do things like this.” She went on to explain that, “it takes time to make the room in the store for it; get the gaming commission in here to regulate the games, but it’s something we’re really excited about.”
Locals and travelers of the thruway seemed to be enthusiastic about the new slot machines as well. Bradley Smith is among them. Smith said that he is a dedicated gambler at the Turning Stone Casino, some 13 miles east of the gas station, and makes a point to visit the resort once a week. Although the game variety at SavOn is drastically reduced, Smith said, “I like it because it’s a lot closer than the casino.
Thornton mimicked Smith’s opinion, saying “it’s closer to home than going all the way to the casino.” However, he also said that he stops in for gas on a near daily basis, “so hopefully I’m not going to play all the time…”