A new pro-casino coalition of community members and business owners is entering the discussion surrounding casino development in Saratoga Springs.
The group Destination Saratoga announced at a press conference that it is seeking to convince area residents that before developers submit their proposals for full-size casinos in New York, that Saratoga Springs, already home to gambling, is an ideal location.
“It’s already a thriving economy, it’s already got a vibrant nightlife,it has gaming, it has internationally known horse racing, and it has a fine community,” said Destination Saratoga Co-Chair Dan Hogan.
“And the people of Saratoga [Casino] and Raceway want to be a part of that.”
The group is funded in large part by Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which already is moving ahead with a $30 million expansion plan. It was announced that Destination Saratoga has launched a website and is seeking to engage business owners and community members in discussion in support of expanding gambling in the city.
Destination Saratoga touted the economic benefits of bringing a casino to Saratoga, including jobs and money for tax relief and education, which according to the state, could total $11.4 million to be split between Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs if it were to become home to a full-size casino.
Co-chair Marcy Taylor, who said she lives near the Casino and Raceway, located about a mile-and-a-half from downtown, said gambling has brought prosperity to her neighborhood.
“Frankly I’m looking forward to having a discussion with our neighbors and our community, to say that the Saratoga community will come first and that whatever we do with the casino is only to enhance our beautiful city,” said Taylor.
Destination Saratoga member Gordon Boyd, a former mayoral candidate, said fears associated with expanding gambling in Saratoga Springs that have been circulating around the community prior to the passage of the statewide casino referendum, and before the opening of the VLT and slots parlor at the Casino and Raceway in 2003, have proven to be unfounded.
“A lot of the arguments that are being made about the expansion of the casino, were made years ago about the advent of the Racino," said Boyd. "Almost the same arguments are being made, and yet since the Racino came, Marcy Taylor’s neighborhood has flourished, downtown has done nothing but improve, and we are still the envy of the state.”
Though the casino referendum passed statewide in November, in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County, voters rejected the measure. Since then, an anti-casino group called SAVE Saratoga has also formed.
Founding member of SAVE Saratoga Sara Boivin said local results from election day already prove the position of the majority of Saratoga residents.
“58.2 percent of Saratogians do not want a casino in there city, and you could debate it, but I think the people have spoken very strongly.”
Boivin said SAVE Saratoga has already collected more than 2,000 signatures in petitions to local officials against a full size casino in the Spa city. Boivin added that the growing debate over casino development in Saratoga sends a message to state-appointed casino siting officials that Saratogians will not provide the kind of local support needed.
In New York’s new casino law, 20 percent of the casino siting criteria hinges on public support.
Though the Saratoga Casino and Raceway is the primary funder for Destination Saratoga, Dan Hogan said he hopes the organization will grow.
“We think as the coalition grows, our support is going to grow, and we think that as people see more of the facts they’ll make the same decision we’ve made, and that’s Saratoga is the best place for a casino.”
New York state has not yet put out a call for proposals for casino development projects.
Correction: Dan Hogan was previously identified as Hank Kuczynksi in this story.