Meetings & Information


Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Giant Sucking Sound Ross Perot talked about

Einstein defined insanity as repeated the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results.

Why would ANY community or any state believe they are immune from the destruction of Predatory Gambling that has been exhibited elsewhere?

No one is immune, yet proponents have convinced themselves and want you to believe 'We're different!'

Predatory Gambling will destroy local businesses, increase crime, increase costs, destroy each community it touches and will not SAVE horse racing.

Why would anyone believe they're DIFFERENT ?

Here's Save Saratoga  

Groups form to fight for, against casino gambling in Saratoga County

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Both pro- and anti-gambling groups are going all in on lobbying efforts as the competition for four upstate casinos officially has begun.

A new group called Destination Saratoga formed in December to promote the expansion of Saratoga Casino & Raceway into a full-fledged casino with table games.

An organization called Save Saratoga came together shortly after the November general election, when statewide voters approved the building of four non-Indian casinos upstate. Two are expected to be located in the Catskills, one in the Southern Tier and one in the Saratoga-Albany area.
Save Saratoga claims that an expansion of gambling would hurt the quality of life in Saratoga Springs.

Both sides are gearing up for the flurry of activity to come, following the legislation taking effect as of Jan. 1.

The New York State Gaming Commission will appoint a five-member Gaming Facility Location Board, which will be in charge of awarding the sites of the casinos. Once at least three members are in place, the board would make a request for applications and set a 90-day deadline.

It will cost prospective casino operators $1 million to make an application. Seventy percent of the selection criteria will be based on economic development generated by the proposed casino. Local support accounts for 20 percent. The remaining 10 percent is based on miscellaneous factors such as addressing problem gamblers, promoting workforce needs and using sustainable development practices.

The exact timetable is unknown but officials have said previously that they want the sites to be awarded in the summer.

Spokesman Morgan Hook said Destination Saratoga was started to provide the counterbalance to all the groups that have been talking about the negative effects of the expansion of casino gambling.
Racino expansion pushed

Advocates believe that it is important that the franchise be awarded to Saratoga Casino & Raceway,
which Hook said has operated successfully for 10 years, generated hundreds of million dollars in education aid and paid city and county property taxes.

Expansion of the existing racino would provide tremendous benefits, according to Hook.

“It would create about 600 jobs. It would dramatically increase the amount of direct aid to the county and city government,” he said.

About 80 percent of tax revenues from casinos will be split equally among the host city and host county. If a casino were located in Saratoga Springs, the city and county would split about $11.5 million annually, according to estimates from the state Division of Budget.

Destination Saratoga is a coalition made up of business and community leaders and is led by three co-chairpersons: Dan Hogan, a longtime member of the state’s Racing and Wagering Commission; former Saratoga Springs Deputy Mayor Hank Kuczynski; and resident Marcy Taylor.

More than 350 residents attended the group’s first meeting, according to Klepetar. The organization launched its website around the first full week of December, and Hook said more than 500 people had liked the group’s Facebook page as of Dec. 23.

In a recent news release, the coalition said it agrees that Las Vegas-style casinos have no place in Saratoga Springs or elsewhere in the Capital Region. However, members said that wouldn’t be what would happen at the existing racino. It would be an expansion to allow table games such as poker and blackjack.

“You’re working with a trusted partner,” he said.

This is preferable to having an outside unknown entity come in and run gambling, according to Hook.

“Why would we mess with what success?” he asked.

Other potential applicants may come forward. There are reports casino operators are interested in developing U.W. Marx construction’s waterfront property in Rensselaer.

Also, the Moreau Town Board on Dec. 30 approved writing a letter to the governor, endorsing the soon-to-be closed Mount McGregor prison as a site for a casino.

Expansion to proceed

Regardless of whether Saratoga Casino and Raceway is awarded one of the casino bids, it is moving ahead with a $30 million expansion project, including a 120-room hotel with a spa, indoor pool, bar, 24,000-square-foot multipurpose event room and a fine-dining restaurant.

“Everything is still as it was announced back in May. Nothing has changed,” said spokeswoman Amy Brannigan.

Racino officials hope to break ground this spring. Construction wouldn’t be completed until late spring or early summer of 2015.

Brannigan said it is too early to talk about plans for the full-fledged casino.

“We’re still waiting for more information from the state as to how the bid process is going to be laid out,” she said.

Quality of life

Save Saratoga is concerned that expanded casino gambling would destroy the quality of life, according to Colin Klepetar, one of the group’s founders.

The city has a thriving downtown and a diverse economy. A bigger casino could upset that balance.

“Bringing in a casino resort will draw people that are already coming to Saratoga Springs away from the things that make it so great, which will take dollars away from local businesses downtown, dollars from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center,” he said.

Klepetar said other communities where casinos were built found that it does not provide the economic boost as advertised.

“In every one of those communities, they lose local jobs,” he said.

If the casino franchise is awarded to another site in the Capital Region, Klepetar said the impact on Saratoga Springs — and its 150-year-old historic racetrack — could be even worse.

“Why mess with something that’s being so successful right now?” he asked.

Also, sometimes all the tax revenue promised is not generated.

Klepetar pointed out that a majority of local voters rejected the casino amendment — by a large margin. More people voted against the casino than cast ballots for Mayor Joanne Yepsen.

Nearly 54 percent of Saratoga County residents voted against the amendment, which passed statewide with 57 percent of the vote.

Advocates are writing letters to the editor to local newspapers about the issue. They are going to continue to put pressure on elected officials in Saratoga Springs and are submitting petitions to the City Council, according to Klepetar.

“It’s a very interesting situation where we’re being outfunded and outspent by this huge casino machine that’s trying to silence our voice,” he said. “We’re just hoping our representatives will listen to our voice.”

Interfaith Impact of New York State also spoke out against the casino amendment, but is not taking active role at this stage, according to Executive Director Robb Smith.

The organization, which describes itself as a coalition of people from different faiths advocating for the common good, remains concerned that a casino would increase the number of problem gamblers and lead to other social problems.

“You get bankruptcies, an increase in family dysfunction and spousal abuse, and alcoholism and drug addition. You get crime, prostitution, burglaries,” he said.

Smith said casinos need problem gamblers for a large percentage of their business. He also is concerned with money that is taken out of the economy with casinos.

“It’s that giant sucking sound that Ross Perot used to talk about,” he said. “It’s like sticking a vacuum cleaner in there and sucking up local cash.”

Still many unknowns

The Upstate Theater Coalition has expressed concern that casinos would steal away live entertainment options from other venues. The legislation states that casino operators have to work in partnership with venue operators on developing entertainment.

Harvey Fox, longtime owner of N. Fox Jewelers in downtown Saratoga Springs, said he isn’t opposed to gambling but has concerns about the scope of the project.

Casinos typically have many shops and restaurants among the amenities, which are designed to keep visitors on the property. That could hurt downtown businesses.

“If it’s a large enough retail component and enough different restaurants, people will go there,” he said.

The devil is in the details, according to Fox.

“We really need to know the facts,” Fox said.

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