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Displaying items by tag: Jeff Walton

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Casino and Raceway officially broke ground May 27 on its $34 million hotel expansion during a ceremony with local and state officials including Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Veitch and Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen. 

"This is a transformational project," said Dan Gerrity, President of Saratoga Casino and Raceway. "This hotel will give guests something they've been long requesting, and will allow us to remain a competitive economic driver in the region for years to come." 

The project is estimated to generate more than $5.4 million in statewide economic output and $1.75 million in state and local tax revenues. The yearlong construction process will create an estimated 400-500 temporary union construction jobs.  Upon opening in 2016, an additional 200-300 good paying career path jobs with benefits will be created. Currently, Saratoga Casino and Raceway employs 400 full time and 200 part time employees in the Capital Region.

The 123,000 square foot expansion will add a 4-star quality hotel to the existing facility. Amenities in the 108-room hotel will include an indoor pool and fitness center, lobby bar, meeting rooms and signature fine dining restaurant. 

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs will partner with Churchill Downs Inc. to compete for a license to build and operate a $300 million casino and resort in East Greenbush.


The owners of the Saratoga slot machine parlor and harness track have teamed up with the company that operates the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown, to gain an edge as New York officials determine which entities will win the right to build and operate casinos in upstate.


The two racing organizations expect the proposed $300 million casino project to create 1,700 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs.



The state will approve up to four casino licenses this fall in three upstate regions, including the Albany and Saratoga area. Casino developments have been announced, or are under consideration, in several Capital Region cities and towns including Albany, Amsterdam, Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady.

Published in News

Highlights of the Project:


The 890,000 square foot Hudson Valley Casino and Resort will feature world-class gaming, dining and entertainment options, including: 

A 500-room resort style hotel;
A full complement of exciting dining options, including fine dining, casual dining and buffet;
Multiple entertainment venues, with a night club, sports bar and showroom;
20,000 square feet of high end retail; and
Convenient parking, with valet, plentiful covered parking and surface lots.

Located at the Crossroads of I-84 and I-87, Hudson Valley Casino and Resort Will Serve as Economic Catalyst for Entire Region and a Jobs Juggernaut for both the Town and City Newburgh, as Well as Communities on Both Sides of the River


NEWBURGH – Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which has gaming and casino interests in three states, announced on Thursday, April 24 that it will propose a world-class destination resort casino on a 70 acre site on Route 17K in Newburgh, across from Orange County Choppers and just minutes from Stewart Airport. The company has submitted a $1 million mandatory application fee to the state, solidifying its intent to make a bid for a commercial casino license to be awarded in the Catskill/Mid-Hudson region. 


The estimated $670 million development will be a permanent economic engine for the region, creating approximately 2,400 construction and more than 2,500 permanent, good-paying jobs with benefits. Many of these jobs are expected to be filled through a dedicated hiring program with local residents, and participation in MWBE partnerships and veteran hiring programs, targeting chronically underemployed communities in the region. In addition to thousands of jobs the project will directly create through construction and operation of the resort and casino, the project is expected to have a significant economic development and jobs impact throughout the Hudson Valley, on both sides of the river, due in large part to its geographic location.


Offering seamless access from both I-84 and the New York State Thruway, the casino and resort will keep New York gaming dollars within the state, serving as a destination for residents from around the region. The project will include a 500-room resort hotel, dining, entertainment venues, and 20,000 square feet dedicated to high-end retail. This full-scale entertainment facility is designed to reinvigorate the Hudson Valley by complementing, not competing with, a potential casino and resort in the Catskills.


As part of its business and branding plan, the Hudson Valley Casino and Resort will incorporate iconic elements of the region into the project and will work with local restaurants, farmers, craft brewers and distilleries to feature their local wines, spirits and produce throughout the facility. Just minutes away from area attractions like the Walkway Over the Hudson, West Point, the Culinary Institute of America, historic Hyde Park, Dia Beacon, and the region’s many hiking and biking opportunities, the project will act as a growth engine for the area’s growing tourism industry and revitalize the local economy on both sides of the Hudson River.


"The Hudson Valley Casino and Resort is designed to showcase the best that the Hudson Valley has to offer and serve as a economic development catalyst that will help create jobs from Newburgh to Poughkeepsie, Beacon to Middletown, and beyond,” said Rita Cox, Senior Vice President of Marketing and External Affairs at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. "There is no other project being proposed that has the kind of robust transportation infrastructure in place like this one does, nor will have as dramatic an impact on existing unemployment like our project here in Newburgh will.”


“This project is good for Newburgh, good for Orange County, and good for the entire Hudson Valley region,” said Town of Newburgh Acting Supervisor Gil Piaquadio. “Not only will it provide annual revenue to the Town of Newburgh of $6.85 million per year, but it will spur local economic growth and ancillary jobs that do business with the casino. The Town of Newburgh won’t be the only beneficiary, however. With easy access to I-84 and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, the Hudson Valley Casino and Resort will have a dramatic impact on economic development and jobs in our neighboring communities like the Cities of Newburgh, Middletown, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie.”  


Steven M. Neuhaus, County Executive of Orange County, said, “My economic development team and I have met with representatives from Saratoga Casino and Raceway, along with several other applicants with an interest in casino development in Orange County, and they are serious economic development partners. Saratoga Casino and Raceway has a national reputation for gaming and I was pleased to learn more about their development plan for our county.”


Led by a locally-based team of trusted owners with a proven track record and decades of gaming experience in three states, including Colorado, Kentucky, and New York, the Hudson Valley Casino and Resort will generate $51 million annually for the Hudson Valley/Catskills Region.   The Town of Newburgh and Orange County will each receive $6.85 million per year.  The revenue generated for both Newburgh and Orange County will help keep property taxes down and support area schools and vital local and county infrastructure and services.


“The Orange County Partnership is working with several casino proposals.  There are unique aspects to each project.  The Saratoga Casino and Raceway Project has selected a great location in the Town of Newburgh with minimal impact to residents, said Maureen Halahan, President and CEO, Orange County Partnership. “This 70 acre site is highly visible and is positioned in an area of the county that has historically struggled with unemployment and poverty issues.  The benefits to the Newburgh School District are substantial.  Saratoga has a stellar team of professionals that they are working with and it is evident by their progress and how well their initial renderings fits perfectly in the site’s topography.  Furthermore, Saratoga has the financial wherewithal and proven track record of success in the gaming industry.”


Published in News
Friday, 25 April 2014 08:13

SCR’s Big Week

- $300 Million E. Greenbush Casino Bid 

- Planned $30 Million Local Expansion Submitted To State  



"When one door closes another door opens…”


SARATOGA SPRINGS – Never has the above expression been truer for Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) than this week. 


In a dramatic announcement on Tuesday, April 22 that could prove to have extensive regional economic implications, SCR revealed plans for a $300 million world-class destination resort casino in the Thompson Hill area in the Town of East Greenbush. The Rensselaer County site has strategic proximity to Albany, the entire Capital Region and, via access to nearby interstate highways, the entire Northeast. 


At the same time, plans are proceeding with a local $30 million expansion on the SCR grounds. This plan had been originally announced on May 28, 2013 and had been billed as part of SCR’s necessary strategic development plans, regardless of the results of the outcome of an expanded gaming scenario on its grounds. These plans are proceeding at it’s own pace through the appropriate government agencies. 


Further, there are strong indications that SCR will file another application for a casino site in the Catskill Region, specifically around Newburgh and Route 17K. These plans were scheduled to be presented after press time to the Newburgh Town Board at a special meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at the Town of Newburgh courthouse. Readers are advised to look for an update at saratogatodayonline.com


But meanwhile, there is plenty that is known on the two pending projects that have been announced:


$30 Million Expansion in Saratoga Springs


A comprehensive site plan, complete with environmental impact statements and supporting documents has been filed with the New York State Gaming Commission. Locals who are interested in reviewing these documents can find a copy in the Planning office in Saratoga Springs City Hall. 


The notable highlights of this expansion plan includes: 

- A 120-room hotel with guest spa, indoor pool and lobby bar 

- A 24,000 square foot multi-purpose event center 

- A signature fine dining restaurant.


According to the summary provided by SCR officials “The expansion plans include the creation of 260 additional jobs at the facility, and an additional $9 million in annual payroll expenses, bringing the total number of employees to 900 and yearly payroll expenses to $27 million.”


“From the beginning, we have worked closely with our local leaders to drive increased tourism to our community and are excited to be able to use these plans to bring more focus to Saratoga as an international resort destination,” said Rita Cox, Senior Vice President of Marketing. “With these plans, we will be expanding our marketing efforts to attract visitors from areas outside the Capital District and throughout the entire Northeastern Region.”


Ultimately, approval of this project, or portions of it, rests with the state. The City of Saratoga Springs has been designated as an “involved agency,” in that they will need to provide extra water and sewer hookups and other services. So they can be described as having a “seat at the table,” if not ultimate decision-making authority. SCR had previously stated its intentions to have its plans reviewed by city land-use boards although they are not required to do so.


Next Steps: At some future point (expected to be soon) the Gaming Commission will start the clock on a 30-day “review period” in which the City Council, and through them, presumably other concerned parties may be heard. Mayor Joanne Yepsen has stated that she might call a special council meeting on this subject alone should the timing warrant it. 


There have been concerns expressed by downtown Saratoga Springs entities and other interests, including the Saratoga Springs City Center and Saratoga Performing Arts Center about the scope of the project in general and the multi-purpose event center particularly. 


According to SCR officials, given timely approvals the construction timeline anticipates work beginning in spring 2014 and the opening of the expansion project in spring 2015.


$300 Million Facility in East Greenbush


The bullet-point highlights of this project:

- 100,000 square foot overall destination resort casino development

- 300-room hotel

- 20,000 square feet of high-end retail

- Multiple entertainment venues including a nightclub, sports bar and showroom

- An estimated 1,700 construction jobs and an estimated 1,700 permanent jobs at the facility.


This does not even begin to include the spillover effects, ancillary businesses, hotels and enterprises throughout the adjacent area. If you need a visual, search out a picture of Kissimmee, Florida before and after Disney World arrived and you’ll get a general idea.


Next Steps: Many. The application-filing deadline is here. The review process begins, with an expectation that siting decisions will occur this fall.  


SCR bills their E. Greenbush casino proposal as a “game changer,” and if it comes to pass, there can be no doubt that it would be, on several levels. Of course, it is one of a few possible proposals in the Capital/Saratoga Region for a casino and only one will eventually be sited – at this time. This is also true in the Catskills area, which may be a more crowded application field.


"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."

- Alexander Graham Bell


On second thought, never has this expression been less true for Saratoga Gaming and Raceway than on this week. 

Published in News

- Estimated $300 Million Project will be an Economic Game Changer, Creating Approximately 1,700 Permanent and 1,700 Construction Jobs


- Local Team of Experienced Gaming Operators to Lead World Class Casino Development at Thompson Hill 


EAST GREENBUSH – Saratoga Casino and Raceway today announced that it will propose a world-class destination resort casino at a site on Thompson Hill in East Greenbush, Rensselaer County. The company will also pay the mandatory applicant fee to the State today, solidifying its intent to bid for the Capital Region’s full commercial casino license. 


The estimated $300 million development will be an economic revival for the region, creating approximately 1,700 construction and 1,700 permanent good paying jobs with benefits, in addition to thousands of additional jobs in the community and region. 


Offering seamless access from I-90, the Casino will keep New York State gaming dollars within the state – instead of losing them to a proposed casino in Springfield, Massachusetts – and will draw Massachusetts residents to New York for its many recreational and tourism offerings. The project will truly reinvigorate the region, making it an exciting destination for visitors from near and far. 


"The Casino at East Greenbush is an absolute game changer for the Capital Region's economy and will become one of New York's premier destination spots for years to come," said Rita Cox, SVP of Marketing and External Affairs at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. "We have a team in place that has deep roots and the most experience in the Capital Region. And this project is situated on the best site to showcase the natural beauty and history of the Hudson River and Albany skyline." 


Led by a locally based team of trusted owners with a proven track record and decades of gaming experience, the Casino at East Greenbush will be the best project for the Capital Region’s long-term prosperity. The Casino will generate $35.5 million annually for the Capital Region and $11.4 million annually for the Town of East Greenbush and Rensselaer County. This funding will help local governments keep taxes down, stay below the tax cap and support local priorities. 


In addition, local partnerships will be a cornerstone of the project, including formal partnerships with local entertainment venues, businesses, community groups, educational institutions and non-profits. It will also create strong, long-term opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses and veterans.


The 100,000 square foot Casino at East Greenbush will feature world-class gaming, dining and entertainment options, including: 


A 300-room resort style hotel;
A full complement of exciting dining options, including fine dining, casual dining and buffet;
Multiple entertainment venues, with a night club, sports bar and showroom;
20,000 square feet of high end retail; and
Convenient parking, with valet, plentiful covered parking and surface lots.

More details including renderings of the proposed facility will be in Friday's Saratoga TODAY

Published in News

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY


SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) has informed Saratoga Springs city officials today that they will be putting an application to seek a casino license in the Town of East Greenbush in Rensselaer County. 


An application fee of $1 million is due by the end of the month. The Saratoga Springs City Council had passed a resolution in March expressing several points of objection with the state law regarding expanded gaming. 


Mayor Joanne Yepsen’s office released the following statement: 

“Today we learned that the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway have finalized their decision to apply for an expanded casino license for a location outside of Saratoga County. 


“As the casino process moves forward in other areas, it is crucial we remember that the original intent of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act was to breathe new life into economically struggling regions of our state.  Here in Saratoga Springs, we are fortunate to have a wonderful community that features a thriving downtown, successful City Center, two horse race tracks and a wealth of natural beauty and cultural assets. It's clear that the Saratoga Casino and Raceway owners feel that Saratoga Springs does not meet the economic criteria set forth by our state legislators in the bill that passed and recognized that the majority of our citizens expressed their opposition to a full casino resort in our city. 


“We look forward to working constructively with them and the New York Gaming Commission as the city considers their $30 million proposed expansion. Saratogians should have a say in this project just as every other important project within the city.” 


Attempts to reach Rita Cox, Vice President of Marketing at SCR were unsuccessful, although it is expected that SCR will issue a statement and this posting will be updated.


Sara Boivin, a steering committee member of SAVE Saratoga, which had opposed any sort of expanded gaming in the city made this statement: “SAVE Saratoga is cautiously optimistic at this point. If we are successful (in preventing expanded gaming in the city) it will be because of the people of Saratoga Springs and how hard they worked. We are also grateful for the efforts of the city council in representing its citizens.”


Charlie Samuels, a member of the anti-expanded gaming group Saratoga 58% said “I can assure you that the majority of Saratoga Springs residents are very relieved that a casino will almost surely not be sited here. I am very encouraged by today’s news but (SCR) is not the only company in the world who may want to build a casino here so we are not celebrating yet.”



Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan confirmed that she had been contacted officially by a member of Destination Saratoga, a group that is at the forefront of support for expanded gaming at SCR. She also noted that “we’ll have to see how this plays out as far as the fiscal impact goes; once we see who and where the regional casino is placed we can estimate and analyze based on that. There was going to be an impact whether a casino was placed in the city or outside it.”


Published in News
Friday, 24 January 2014 16:02

The ‘White Wave’ Waves No White Flag

Saratoga Springs City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS— The public comment period at the beginning of the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 21, was, as expected, longer than usual and dominated by members of the public expressing their opinion on the issue of expanded gaming. 


But, as opposed to the council’s previous meeting (January 7) the composition of the commenters might best be described as a “horse of a different color.”


Another overflow city council chamber was, this time, dominated by white-shirted advocates for expanded gaming at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR). (This later led Commissioner of Public Works Chris Mathiesen to lead a discussion regarding moving future meetings to a larger room, perhaps the Music Hall on the third floor). These advocates were largely drawn from the ranks of people who were employees or had some connection to SCR, or were members of the advocacy group “Destination Saratoga”. 


The SCR employees that spoke came from all levels of the facility, from management to part-timers. It was apparent to this reporter that many were not used to public speaking and some read from comments that were on paper. 


But it is important to note that there was nothing that was apparent that indicated that they were handed a script to read, or that they were being compelled to read said script. 


It appeared that everyone spoke from the heart, and there was no reason from this vantage point to doubt anyone’s sincerity in their feelings of gratitude for their position and their employer. 


One standout commenter who of course needed no script was former Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue, who spoke in his trademark “plain folks” language and garnered the most thunderous applause of the evening. 


Of course, there were some commenters and members of the gallery who were against expanded gaming at SCR, among them were members of SAVE (Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion.) However, that group had sent out a memo to the press and their membership saying that the jobs at SCR as currently constituted “…are protected under the legislation that passed in November,” and therefore they were sitting this meeting out. Some decided to come a la carte’ anyway to observe, leaflet and in one case, hand out pastries donated by Mama Mia’s restaurant. 


The sugar was certainly welcomed by this member of the media, as well as Mayor Yepsen, who had a full agenda which was underway with an executive session nearly 80 minutes after we had all saluted the flag.


In Other Council News: 

- After emerging from executive session, Mayor Yepsen detailed and the council unanimously approved the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement with the police administrative officer unit, which covered the Chief, Assistant Chief and Captain. 


This contract had expired in 2008 and will run though the end of this year. As such, there were pay increases that were retroactive that totaled approximately $57,000 (which would be paid out of a contingency fund which had been set up previously in Finance Commissioner Madigan’s budget) as well as a $17,000 increase in the current budget. The mayor saluted her team for their diligence in getting this expired contract up to date.


- The mayor made three appointments: James Helicki to the zoning board, Mark Torpey to the planning board and Carol Maxwell to the heritage area program advisory committee. Later, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck appointed Alexandra Besso to the board of assessment review.


- The mayor discussed Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and it’s impact on city residents and reminded everyone that her annual State of the City address will take place next Tuesday evening, January 28 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. 


- By a 4-0 vote, the council approved a Public Works addendum to an agreement related to the Ballston Avenue Improvement Project with Greenman Pedersen, Inc., with Commissioner Franck recusing himself, as he owned property in the affected area. Also, the council approved 5-0 a change order with Bunkhoff General Contracts for an ongoing project related to moisture removal and structural strengthening in the historic Canfield Casino’s basement.



- Commissioner Mathiesen received unanimous approval for his motions to begin alternative side of the street parking on Greenfield Avenue between North Broadway and Clement Avenue. He also received unanimous approval for increasing base parking violation fees from 30 to 35 dollars and adding a scofflaw fee of $10.

Published in News
Friday, 10 January 2014 11:50

The “Red Sea,” and a Wave of Change

Saratoga Springs City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An overflowing council chamber, which looked more like a Target team member meeting, or perhaps a Boston World Series home game than a usual audience, greeted new Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the 2014 Saratoga Springs City Council at their first regular meeting of the new year on Tuesday, January 7. 


The first order of business was a public comment period, which normally is scheduled for about 15 minutes. 


But not on this evening.


A virtual sea of red-shirted, red-scarfed, red everything-clad audience comprised the overwhelming majority of the dozens who lined up to express their opinions on the pending siting of a capital region expanded gaming facility. 


Most of the commenters (this reporter estimated that perhaps as much as 80 percent of those who went to the public microphone) were members, or had some degree of support for the viewpoint of of SAVE (which stands for Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion), an organization that is strongly committed against the siting of an expanded gaming facility in the city or in Saratoga County.


To be sure, there were several people during the comment period that expressed support for such an expanded facility in town, most notably at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR). These commenters were both a cross-section of SCR employees, management (represented by Vice President George W. "Skip" Carlson) and members of Destination Saratoga, a group which advocates siting the capital region expanded gaming facility at SCR) as well as private citizens who favor such a facility. 


However, numbers do not lie, and it cannot be denied that SAVE has once again exhibited the ability to turn out big, motivated, visible numbers. This would be evident even if you were watching the proceedings on a black-and-white television. 


But the questions remain: will those numbers count? And will the city council count those numbers and do what several SAVE members, as well as some of those not part of the “red sea” advocate: to pass a firm resolution against siting an expanded gaming facility in the city? 


It is no stretch to say that the council has a tough soul-searching road ahead as it formulates its position, if any, on this issue. 


By and large, given the amount of commenters and the intensity that advocates on both sides feel about this issue, the gallery was generally well behaved, and if not silent, cordial to opposing viewpoints. Mayor Yepsen needed to use her gavel just once to restore order. 


Yet, the people who wished to opine on both sides kept coming, and the public comment period, rather than a quarter-hour, extended well into a second hour. 


After the public had wound down, the council went into executive session for about 45 minutes. It appeared that it was shaping up to be quite a long night. 


Yet, remarkably, once having emerged from executive session, the council conducted an orderly, organized and most importantly brisk session in which a large agenda with several important items were dispatched just under 60 minutes. 


As this reporter has vehemently criticized the council for previous meandering, ponderous and near-endless pointless discussions, they must be credited when due. Here’s hoping that this sea change in comportment continues.  


Among the notable developments in the January 7 meeting:


  • -The capital budget was amended, by a 5-0 roll call vote, to provide funds for the public safety department to complete its renovations of the police department facility. This in itself is notable in itself; more so, because the council agreed to modify the usual agenda process to move up this important item much earlier in the process, allowing the interested public to hear the discussion and vote. Normally, public safety department items would among the last to be considered.


  • -Mayor Yepsen announced that her State of the City address would take place on Tuesday, January 28 at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The mayor also appointed Robert W. Manasier to the recreation commission. She also gave an update as to the status of the new Code Blue facility, which began on December 24 (see related story on page 7), noting that the city of Glens Falls had inquired about information about Saratoga Springs’ experience with an eye towards establishing its own facility.



County Supervisors Matthew Veitch and Peter Martin reported on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ organizational meeting and detailed their committee assignments. Supervisor Veitch has been named as the vice chairman of the board, which means he will be the chair of the law and finance committee and will have primary responsibility for preparation of next year’s county budget. Supervisor Martin noted that among his committee assignments he will be a member of county racing committee, a committee whose scope has been expanded to include all forms of gaming.  

Published in News
Friday, 10 January 2014 10:55

The People’s Wall: On Expanded Gaming

Note to Readers: We invite your thoughts and emails. Please keep your comments brief (150 words or less) and email them (no snail mail please) with a phone number to confirm to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Saratoga TODAY reserves the right to edit or reject any offensive or other language as needed. What a dilemma Saratoga Springs is faced with. If Saratoga Casino and Raceway is chosen to get a Vegas-style casino – Downtown Saratoga will be destroyed along with SPAC and other businesses! If Rensselaer is chosen for a casino, then Saratoga Casino and Raceway will be destroyed! If Saratoga Casino is gone – what will replace it? Saratoga will not get the revenue it has bee accustomed to receiving. It would be interesting to know how the Saratoga hotels and restaurants do during the winter months. SPAC, of course, is idle. Other than the Victorian Streetwalk, First Night, Chowderfest and the Flurry there is not much going on downtown in the winter. A casino with entertainment could help fill the gaps and even help downtown if there was a designated area (like a visitors center) that promoted downtown Saratoga. The City Center’s concern about the size of the event space at the casino could be resolved if the casino agrees to have only entertainment (dancers, singers, bands, etc.) and not conventions! John J. Totten Saratoga Springs Why I’m against the proposed casino complex: It’ll bring more crime, pull people from downtown, undermine the city convention center and other venues, increase congestion, put a strain on infrastructure, lead to more devastation to families due to gambling and other addictions, bring the guys in shiny suits back to town, make this a less attractive place to live (which will affect property values), and be spiritually deadening. Look at the places near casinos that are dark and struggling. We don’t need any more development. We’re a small city. The Chamber’s “fact finding forum” on the proposed Vegas-style, full-scale casino, hotel, restaurants and convention center, was short on facts, long on vague promises, and almost all about business and money, not community effects on people, city, crime, etc. 450 casino “supporters” we’re bussed in under threats of fines to pack the house, just like a stacked deck. The Chamber event was an infomercial for the first hour! Skip Carlson and Rita Cox were sweetly promising to live in harmony with Saratoga, but a casino, convention center, hotel, and restaurants would try to keep their patrons there and would be in competition. Mark Baker, John Baker and Harvey Fox raised concerns about dangers about a “mini-Vegas” on downtown, but SAVE, a citizens group, was not allowed to speak. 58% of Saratogians voted against allowing casinos, and in electoral terms that’s a landslide, but that doesn’t matter unless people pressure the politicians. Robert W. Davis Saratoga Springs Add me to EXTREMELY opposed list. Ask people if they remember horse racing in Atlantic City? Some will recall the Matchmaker, the United Nations Handicap and world-class racing and then the casinos came to make everything better... Marilyn Lane Saratoga Springs A pragmatic approach is to establish a point that both parties can agree upon. Without a doubt, gambling brings risk: property value, crime, quality of life, infrastructure and tax risks to name a few. There are also benefits: jobs, economic growth & tax revenue. In similar cases where risks of adverse conditions potentially harming tax payers, their land values and quality of life for residents are absorbed by property owners’ (AK, PA oil & gas) ongoing compensation in the form of royalties is paid to the land owners. Let’s share the risk and reward with the residents and taxpayers by sharing profits based on property tax participation- pro-rated proportionately. In this model, true entrepreneurship prevails. If the pro casino faction balks, their self-serving greed will surface. If they accept, their points gain validity. With great decision-making power comes immense responsibility. I hope Saratoga’s leaders raise the bar for accountability and social responsibility. Stephen D. Berg Resident and Business Owner The nightmare of Saratoga’s historic flat track forsaken for the air-conditioned “Destination Saratoga Casino” is too threatening to be ignored. Yet, to date, it seems NYRA is sitting this one out. At the casino forum, two thoroughbred breeders and one for the standardbreds represented horse interests. Collectively they tried to convey concerns of being left behind and told chilly stories of failed racetracks when a casino comes to town. But where was NYRA? Could it be in collusion with the Governor’s office (where it seems SPAC has gone), or are there conflicts of interest? What say you NYRA? Robert M. Toole Saratoga Springs So my take on the meeting at the city center is that we still know very little about what the potential development of the 160 acres really is. I think this meeting was nothing more than fluff from the development side. We have to “wait and see” how much they cram into their RFA’s, and then it’s too late. I would like to see their proposal BEFORE it is filed! Why can’t we have a meeting to discuss the proposal that has the very real possibility of altering what we have worked for, for so long? Why have we never embraced harness racing like we have thoroughbred racing? As a life-long resident do not recall any development of that part of racing to improve attendance. Is it really “failing” to the point we could lose if casino development is blocked? What other options have been explored? I think it was abundantly clear the opposition to Casino expansion has made their presence known and as someone said; the large turnout for, against, and undecided does represent we are a concerned community; and hopefully we can all stay on this issue like flies on rice! We should we have a voice at the next meeting! Just saying... Kim Fonda My family spans five generations in Saratoga Springs, including my daughter who, if we stay, will attend the same school as her mom, uncle, great grand-uncle and great grandmother. I can work anywhere in the U.S., but chose to come home – a rarity based on the AP story of January 4, noting the mass exodus of young professionals from upstate NY. I have many concerns about the siting of a casino in Saratoga Springs - principal among them is the recent talk of ‘promises,’ and ‘assurances’ being made in the name of getting this deal done. I’m equally concerned about so-called ‘partnerships’ to exist between private interest groups and our city, and its residents and businesses. While I’m sure some of our public officials have benefitted from their own personal partnerships with these private interest groups, let’s ask ourselves honestly: How real are these promises? How binding are these assurances? How strong are these partnerships? Private casino interests are just that: private. These same people promising public partnerships have a single objective: maximizing private interests. There is nothing inherently wrong with maximizing private interests. There is something disingenuous about doing so under the pretenses of acting in the public’s best interest. I submit to you the same group promising you partnerships and thoughtful expansion will act in the public’s interest only if doing so furthers their own agenda. That is something less than a true partnership. We’ve now heard the following: “We’ll build a “Saratoga-style” casino.” “We will close at 1 a.m. if the Saratoga Springs bars have to” “We don’t plan to offer subsidies on drinks / meals / entertainment” “We will work with the local businesses” “Development will be in line with Saratoga’s culture and history” What precisely are the legally binding mechanisms requiring private casino interests to adhere to these promises? Moreover, when it suits these same interests to sell to new owners in order to maximize their own bottom line, what can this city point to in order to bind successors and assigns as to these same promises? Private casino interests are the first to speak of their neighborhood pride. Can you say the same for Genting, Ceasar’s, MGM and other corporations buying up casinos nationwide? What kind of partnership should we expect then? Casinos are in the business of making you feel as if you have a chance to win, when you otherwise know the odds are stacked decidedly against you. It’s smoke and mirrors. This entire bid for a “Saratoga-style” casino in partnership with the city and its businesses and residents is just more of the same. I respectfully ask our elected officials to please stop buying the talking points of the racino – your citizens are smarter than that. Uphold the vote of your citizens and pass a resolution against the siting of a casino in Saratoga Springs. Brooke McConnell Saratoga Springs I am urging each member of the City Council to protect the precious resources of our City and pass a resolution against full gaming in Saratoga Springs.Powerful forces, fueled by greed alone, are determined to force this facility down our throats if we stand idly by. No community in history has withstood the crushing social impacts of casino gambling within their city limits. Increased problem gambling, embezzlement, drunk driving, burglaries are all proven to increase when a casino comes to town. Detroit needs a casino. Monticello would benefit from a casino. Placing a casino in Saratoga would be like encouraging a dingo farm to be next to a child care center. As a former local business owner, 34 year resident and Grandfather, I treasure what Saratoga has to offer. As a property owner, much of our personal wealth lies in the local residential and commercial properties we have worked so hard to acquire, renovate and maintain over the decades. A casino threatens property values. This is a proven fact, not merely an opinion. I wouldn’t choose to send my granddaughter to college in a casino town, and suspect many other families wouldn’t either. Please just say ‘no way’ to the casino...they only care about themselves. Russell Pittenger Saratoga Springs
Published in News
Thursday, 26 December 2013 12:23

The Right Casino Destination?

Destination Saratoga says the answer is already here for a decade.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – “I want to do this. Usually I get asked to serve on a board or office. This is a position I have chosen.” 


So states Daniel D. Hogan, one of three co-chairs for the recently formed “Destination Saratoga” group, which is seeking to support the expansion plans at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) to include live table gaming. 


Mr. Hogan is one of three co-chairs of a 16-person steering committee composed from a broad cross-section of the local and regional business community and other areas. We sat down with him and steering committee member Gordon Boyd to gain insight as to the group’s advocacy and strategy. 


The composition of the steering committee is notable for its makeup alone – bringing together diverse factions such as longtime Republican County Chair Jasper Nolan with former (and also longtime) Democratic Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue.  Current officeholders are, as to be expected, not represented. Yet Carrie Woerner, candidate for State Assembly in the 113th District, is named as a steering committee member. (Visit destinationsaratoga.com for the complete list of committee members).  


While no employee of Saratoga Casino and Raceway is part of the steering committee of “Destination,” the website makes it clear that this group’s activities are supported and funded by SCR. “It’s our role to be supportive of their activities,” noted Rita Cox, SCR’s senior vice president of marketing and external affairs, “We’ll be involved as things proceed.”


Mr. Hogan brings to the table an accomplished background, which includes both relevant industry experience and public service. Until earlier this year, he served as Chairman and Board Member at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, a three-person panel which set policy, made and enforced rules for the state’s horse racing and charitable gaming industries. While in that capacity, he became an admirer of SCR’s acumen and business practices, particularly how they were able to capitalize on, and revitalize harness racing as a result of being named a video lottery terminal (VLT) destination nearly 10 years ago. 


“The quality of racing, the purse structure is like night and day now,” Hogan said. This led him to approach SCR officials after Proposition 1’s statewide passage, with a plan to form a group that would support the proposition that SCR would be the best siting for the Capital Region’s casino. 


In fact, Hogan stated that there has been a casino here, well run in concert with the community’s values, since SCR gained VLT’s. “They have proven to be fiscally and socially responsible; I approached them because I feel that this is the best place for expanded gaming, for the city, county and the region’s best overall development.”


Hogan is a resident of Albany, a fact that also includes a stint as Deputy County Executive. He said that he expected competitive applications would come from Albany and Rensselaer once the application guidelines are formulated. Nonetheless, for overall economic impact, he concludes that SCR is the best location. 


He has put together the steering committee team and has reached out to the community at large. The group claims over 500 members, which was the estimated number of supporters that were brought in by Upstate Transit to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce organized casino fact-finding forum on Monday, December 16 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. 


The bussing in of supporters was noted in some quarters as being somewhat illegitimate in some way as if people were being planted but Hogan saw it more as good planning:


“Look, we knew that parking by the City Center with a group that large was going to be an issue.” Hogan said. “We decided to meet in a central location to make sure everyone that wanted to get to the forum was able to.” Hogan estimated that the supporters were composed of “about 200 SCR employees, 200 horsemen in some capacity and about 100 union members” in trades that would benefit from expanded gaming at SCR.


It is relevant to point out that Mr. Hogan said that he is a paid consultant for Destination Saratoga at this time, and he is devoting full-time effort to the organization and it’s goals. Their budget is not public, but it is reasonable to presume that the lion’s share, if not all of the funding comes from SCR. The other steering committee members are volunteers. 


Gordon Boyd articulated the economic impact numbers. “The revenue sharing provisions in Proposition 1 estimate that both the City of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County would receive about 5.5 to 5.7 million dollars annually. This is more than one-third of the annual property tax rate.” In fact, the 2012 property tax assessment was just over $15 million, which supports Boyd’s calculation. “This does not take into account the hundreds of new jobs that will be created; good paying positions with decent wages and benefits.”


Hogan stated that he supports an open application process, a fact echoed by SCR’s Rita Cox, although both disclaimer this statement that this will be “to the extent possible.” As the regulations are yet to be issued, they could be legally prevented from revealing certain documents and data. This will obviously be subjected to both media and community scrutiny as the process moves forward. 


To date, there have been the beginnings of a multi-media campaign, and the Saratoga Casino and Raceway has planned a full-schedule of promotional and public relations activities surrounding it’s tenth anniversary of VLT’s (which came on line on January 28, 2004). 


Much of the activity regarding this issue is still ahead. Hogan did find reason to be optimistic, even finding some small yet significant common ground with their worthy opposition:


“They are against a Vegas-style expansion and so are we. We want a Saratoga-style casino, one that works with and benefits our community at large. The best place to make this happen is at The Saratoga Casino and Raceway.”


Published in News
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