SARATOGA SPRINGS – While much uncertainty remains about what the actual characteristics that a full-blown “Saratoga Style” casino would have, if it were to come to Saratoga Springs at all, some things are already certain:
To use a sports analogy, we are closer to the top of the first inning than the bottom of the ninth in the process – This is because, as explained at the fact-finding forum by Attorney Robert J. McGlaughlin, the actual guidelines for a casino request for application (RFA) that comes out of the language in Proposition 1 has not been finalized.
Last Election Day Proposition 1 passed by a good margin statewide but emphatically defeated by both the Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County electorate.
Moreover, the panel of RFA reviewers has yet to be appointed. Proposition 1 calls for a review panel of five. But when three people are appointed, an RFA is supposed to be finalized within 90 days. Mr. McGlaughlin’s read on the timetable was that the most optimistic timetable would be to have the RFA deadline be the end of June of 2014, with an actual “you get the casino” decision being some undetermined time after that.
So it’s going to take a while. In the meantime:
The Battle Lines have Been Drawn – The stage has been set. The combatants have coalesced around two major groups, each vehement in getting their message out.
This is not to say that the citizenry at large have declared their individual loyalty to one camp or the other, but rather that two firm camps have been established. Both groups are well equipped to be victorious; both get high marks for their organization skills although their approaches are markedly different.
Just what you look for in a heavyweight title fight, which both sides would probably say the casino issue is:
The red team, as it were, is a color worn by the SAVE group; standing for Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion. They burst on the scene first in a big, big way on November 18 when they packed City Hall for an overflow meeting. You can read all about their POV at www.savesaratoga.org but for the purposes of setting the table, think of them as the hardcore “No” group.
They don’t want to “make it work.” They don’t want a casino, period.
Their principal strong points to date are in the numbers – not just the one’s they have motivated and turned out, but the voting numbers. They purport to give voice to the majority that voted down Proposition 1 locally and that alone is compelling. They have developed a variety of citizen action tactics, most recently when, chagrined at their exclusion from the Chamber Forum, they had their supporters come to Monday’s forum in… red!
And I did the math. I saw a lot of red this past Monday night. Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t underestimate SAVE as just a bunch of proletarian tree-huggers or some such:
- -They turned out big visible numbers – twice now- in a little less than a month, and
- -Let’s face it— all those red tee shirts cost money, even if you are getting a deal somewhere. I have been told to expect further fund-raising and rally plans by a principal member of SAVE and I have absolutely no doubt that they will do just what they have planned.
The other side can be called the Green Team, and not because funding their activities should hardly be an issue—well, at least not totally.
Behold Destination Saratoga. Their POV is delineated at destinationsaratoga.com and prominently on their site’s front page is the fact that The Saratoga Casino and Raceway is a major branch of their coalition, in addition to “…local officials, business leaders, small business owners and community members…” and some, if not many of their steering committee members (listed on their site) would be familiar to someone who has lived in this market for any length of time.
In other words, they bring a strong, experienced lineup to the game.
Destination Saratoga came to the party later, proclaiming their formation at a press conference at Lillian’s Restaurant on Wednesday, December 11, so at this point their plans and related tactics are in the “to be announced” category.
Yet there is no doubt that a full-range of activity will be forthcoming, if for no other reason than the principals’ self-interest, which is how it should be. At press time, there are interviews pending with both Destination Saratoga and Saratoga Casino and Raceway officials. Like SAVE, these groups have their case to make and deserve the space to make it.
For this is nothing less than THE local issue of our lifetimes.