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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, 21 November 2013 12:21

Will it Pay to SAVE?

The Birth of a Citizens Movement

SARATOGA SPRINGS — An overflowing cross-section of the community gathered on Monday evening, November 18 at City Hall to learn about and make pledges to participate in activities to resist a casino inside the city and county limits. 

The meeting, organized by the group Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion (SAVE) brought such a large response from the citizenry that the city council chamber was not enough to hold them, necessitating an impromptu second simultaneous presentation in the hallway by Sara Boivin, one of SAVE’s organizers. Inside the council room, a tightly packed agenda brought about a wealth of information and the revelation as to SAVE’s action plans. 

SAVE organizers Colin Klepatar and Clem Marino described a multi-pronged approach which, in addition to an online petition, included neighborhood and event canvassing, media and political outreach. 

They asked each attendee to speak for a minute about their reasons for attending if they wished. The major subjects that were stated involved concerns about potential rising crime, the social costs of gambling and a general deterioration in the quality of life should Saratoga Springs or Saratoga County host a table-gaming casino facility.

“We’re the ones to give voice to the 20 percent,” said Klepatar, referring to the weight that community support, or lack thereof would count on a casino application. He also noted that there were no specific guidelines as to how that aspect could be gauged.

Both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County soundly defeated casino Proposition 1 in the recent November 5 election, though it passed statewide. In the Capital Region, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer and Schoharie Counties passed Proposition 1.

SAVE organizers asked each participant to sign their petition and to commit to at least one clear action to help spread the word. 

The organization’s website, www.savesaratoga.org, has a mission statement which reads in part: “(SAVE) seeks to preserve our thriving downtown, rarely seen in America today and recognized nationally; our world renowned performance art spaces; our thriving economy and our social and individual security and pride that generations of thoughtful and caring Saratogians have worked to build, rebuild and preserve.

“Casino gambling is a single-destination activity, which succeeds only by keeping its guests at the casino. Casinos are a drain on local businesses, directly competing with them by discounting their hotel rooms, entertainment, and amenities, drawing customers away from downtown Saratoga. The projected tax-revenue benefits are guesswork and when gambling revenues decline, it is the taxpayers who are burdened – with lower property values and higher rates of real estate foreclosures. Critical and already overburdened local services, such as police, fire, and hospital services, will become further stretched.

“The social costs of full casino gambling are potentially significant as well. Gambling is a regressive tax, exacting its profits from those who are least able to absorb financial losses. This can result in spikes in poverty rates, unemployment rates, and crime. The projected benefits of full casino gambling have yet to be convincingly documented. We are concerned that the promise of a windfall for host communities will not be realized, especially in light of plummeting revenues at casinos across the country. Meaningful guarantees and demonstrated long-term value are lacking. SAVE Saratoga contends that the revenues will never outweigh the costs and this is a risk our community will not take.”

It is obvious based on last night’s attendance that these ideas have broad appeal. The SAVE organizers came ready with a plan it will be interesting to see whether we witnessed the beginnings of a new form of broad-based citizen action in Saratoga Springs.

Published in News

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