Officials lobby for Spa City casino
SARATOGA SPRINGS Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County officials have begun lobbying state officials for the city to be the site of a state-sanctioned casino, assuming gambling is legalized in the state.
A local delegation met Wednesday in Albany with Bennett Liebman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary for gaming and racing, and plans future meetings with Assembly and Senate members.
“We made our case as a city and a county to get a casino located in Saratoga Springs,” said county Supervisor Matthew Veitch, R-Saratoga Springs, chairman of the county’s Racing Committee. “We have the infrastructure in place. It will benefit the city, the county and the state, as well.”
Liebman offered no commitments but asked the delegation to return in a month, Veitch said.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson, city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Alan Grattidge, R-Charlton, were among those who attended.
Cuomo, who is pushing for casino gambling to be legalized, said in January that he would like to see three casinos established upstate.
Cuomo contends the state is losing revenue and tourism to neighboring states that have legal gambling, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There are already several successful Indian-run casinos in New York state.
The governor hasn’t said where new casinos might be located, but the Niagara region, the Catskills and the Capital Region are considered to be among the leading contenders.
The Saratoga Springs City Council and the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors have both endorsed having a casino located in the city, if state voters approve a pro-gambling constitutional amendment. The necessary legislation passed the Assembly and Senate in 2012 and must be passed again this year. The second passage would turn the matter over to voters for a final decision in November.
A full casino would probably be at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway — a harness racing track that currently has video lottery terminals, the only kind of gambling now sanctioned off Indian lands.
“We kept making the push, build on the success you have,” said county Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs, at a Racing Committee meeting Thursday in Ballston Spa.
Lake George has been mentioned as another possible casino site, and every horse racing facility that now has VLTs wants to offer table games.
Veitch said one concern is that competition from a casino not harm the thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course, which is at the heart of the city’s summer economy. He’d like to see some of the revenue from any local casino used to support the thoroughbred industry.
If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Saratoga Casino and Raceway officials have said they would invest $40 million in a hotel and expanded casino.