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- 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
By Arthur Gonick
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.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Close to 20 horses have been evacuated after a barn fire at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.
Shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday, March 28 the Saratoga Springs Police Department received a call from the Saratoga Casino and Raceway in regards to an active fire at one of their barns.
The barn is number 15, which is located inside the fence near Gridley Avenue. The evacuation took place without any injuries to the horses. One person was evaluated for smoke inhalation, but not transported for medical aid.
The horses were evacuated by Saratoga Springs Public Safety personnel, the Casino and Raceway's security staff and other employees on site. The Saratoga Springs Fire Department brought the fire under control. The cause of the fire was deemed electrical and an accident, although the investigation will continue.
Update: Rita Cox, Senior Vice President at Saratoga Casino and Raceway issued the following statement at 12:45 p.m. today:
"Friday morning at 6:15, a fire was discovered by a backstretch security manager and local horsemen in barn #15 at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. All horses were immediately evacuated and no injuries have been reported. The Saratoga Springs Fire Department quickly contained the fire and is working to determine the cause. The 26 stalls in the barn were fully occupied at the time and all horses have been safely relocated to other barns at the facility. Damage to the barn was confined to 6-8 stalls and 2 tack rooms on the west end.
"Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s backstretch includes 34 horse barns with 1,040 stalls. There are currently 600 horses housed at the facility. There have been no significant fires in over 20 years. Inspections of the 50 structures located at the facility are conducted regularly by local fire officials, most recently in May 2013.
“The quick response of our team members and horsemen ensured the safety of all horses and personnel impacted by today’s events,” said Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s COO, Jamie Hartman. “We are also very grateful for the immediate response of our local Saratoga Springs Fire Department, whose quick response ensured that the fire was quickly contained.”
"The live harness racing schedule will not be impacted. Post time on Friday and Saturday is 6:45pm."
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.”
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.
Addition Includes 120-Room Hotel, 24,000-Square-Foot Event Center
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In an effort to attract more tourists to the city and create an “international resort destination,” Saratoga Casino and Raceway announced a $30 million investment to expand its facilities by adding a 120-room hotel and 24,000-square-foot multi-use event center, among other amenities.