The Waterloo Thruway exit has been busy since del Lago Resort & Casino opened in February. 

Before the casino opened, average monthly traffic at exit 41 was 266,306 vehicles, according to the New York State Thruway Authority. Since Feb. 1, average monthly traffic is 381,477 vehicles — a 43 percent increase. 

Bob Shipley, chairman of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, said the figures exceeded expectations. 

"It's very clear that del Lago is bringing new tourists to our region while helping benefit both Seneca County and our local businesses," Shipley said. 

Del Lago is located two-tenths of a mile away from the Thruway exit. Before the casino's debut, the Thruway Authority expanded the toll road by installing an additional E-Z Pass lane. The lane was added to address an expected uptick in traffic at the exit. 

Wilmorite, the Rochester-area development firm behind the casino project, estimated that it would spur economic development in Seneca County. A Byrne Dairy convenience store opened at the intersection of routes 414 and 318 in the town of Tyre. Local officials have previously said there are plans to build a new car dealership near the casino. 

Another beneficiary of the increased traffic is Magee Diner, a restaurant near the Thruway exit. Gary Schlegel, who owns the diner, said sales are up 15 percent since del Lago opened in February. 

With more customers coming to the diner, Schlegel said the restaurant will expand. The expansion project will include obtaining a liquor license and transforming the restaurant's patio into a room that can be used year-round. 

The work is expected to be completed by spring 2018. 

"We see more and more new faces in our restaurant every day, and 80 percent of the time my customers tell me they are on their way to or from del Lago," Schlegel said. "Del Lago helps bring cars off the New York State Thruway and into Magee Diner, and we are grateful for the mutually beneficial relationship we have built with del Lago and look forward to seeing more customers through our doors." 

The Thruway data was released after multiple stories about how New York's new casinos, including del Lago, are on pace to fall short of revenue projections. 

Since it opened in February, del Lago's pre-tax revenue is more than $112 million, according to commercial gaming reports filed to the state Gaming Commission. The application for del Lago's casino license estimated that the casino would generate $263 million in revenue in its first year. 

But casino operators have touted the broader impact of the facilities, such as increased Thruway exit traffic and new businesses. The host communities and counties in designated gaming regions receive a share of the casino's tax payments. 

For del Lago, the host communities are Seneca County and the town of Tyre. Each have received nearly $1.4 million in tax payments, according to the state Gaming Commission. 

"These early indicators of del Lago's positive impact on the region are gratifying and only inspire us to continue helping local businesses expand and create even more new jobs and opportunities for our neighbors in Seneca County and the Finger Lakes region," said Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago Resort & Casino. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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