New York News
3:34 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Churchill Downs Joins In Casino Bid

A power partnership between Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Churchill Downs Incorporated promises to be a game-changer in the race to grab the coveted Capital Region casino spot.

Churchill Downs' Shawn Bailey and Saratoga Raceway's Rita Cox
Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Saratoga Casino and Raceway spokesperson Rita Cox says "the Albany skyline location" in East Greenbush is simply the best choice to site a Capital Region casino. Speaking Tuesday morning in Rensselaer County, just across the river from downtown Albany, Cox believes partnering with Churchill Downs — the owner of several tracks and casinos in addition to its Kentucky namesake — will create jobs, grow the economy and keep taxes down. Some 1,700 construction jobs will be created along with 1,700 additional permanent "good paying jobs with benefits.” ... "It will also provide millions of dollars to the town of East Greenbush and Rensselaer County each year and millions in additional support payments for the seven other counties in the region."

Churchill Downs Senior VP of business development Shawn Bailey says the site is "perfectly situated."   "The access is just unrivaled when you compare it to any other proposal that we're aware of today. We're truly in the best position to keep New York dollars in New York."

The Capital Region stands to net over $24 million annually – again Rita Cox:   "There will be approximately 2500 to 3000 gaming positions, a mix of slots and tables. There will be hotel rooms totaling 3 to 5 hundred in a couple of different configurations. Multiple entertanment venues including a sports bar and night club and a showroom. Multiple dining options including a buffet, casual and fine dining. Also a significant amount of high end retail space in the neighborhood of 20 thousand square feet. Several entertainment options to make sure that we are the entertainment destination of choice."

Cox says local arts organizations like Capital Rep and Proctor's need not feel threatened.   "We feel there is room for partnerships with businesses and venues across the entire region. We have begun speaking with the entertainment venues and will continue those discussions to make sure that we're working together for what's the best of both worlds."

To date, 22 companies have applied to open four casinos in New York State after voters passed the ballot proposal last November. Saratoga Casino and Raceway abandoned plans for a Vegas-style casino expansion at its home site in the Spa City, whose city council moved against a casino, but has turned its attention to East Greenbush and the Hudson Valley.

The Casino at East Greenbush initiative joins the so called E-23 proposal in Albany, Howe Caverns, and a Schenectady site at the former ALCO plant in the race to get approval to build a casino.   The winner is to be announced in the fall.

Saratoga stands to gain, no matter what the outcome. Again, Shawn Bailey:   "In the gaming bill there is a support subsidy for purses and breeding awards. Whoever gets the Capital Region license will be making those payments to Saratoga."

The Casino at East Greenbush would be built between between I-90 Exits 8 and 9.  In April, the East Greenbush Town Board voted unanimously to back "any reasonable" casino development proposal, although a town official stressed there was no formal proposal in mind. Once word was out that Saratoga Casino was interested in the town, some residents were upset they had not been given an opportunity to vote on the idea.

Former Town of East Greenbush Board of Ethics member Jack Conway told the Times Union - quote - "Nobody knows if the people of East Greenbush want a casino or not. If the state approves this, we're getting a casino and nobody here had a chance to say a word."

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