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Racing chair vocal backer of casino

Saturday, January 4, 2014
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There may be doubts in Saratoga Springs about whether a full-scale casino belongs in the city, but there’s no reason to think those doubts are shared in county government.

A vocal casino supporter, Charlton town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, was named Thursday to chair a redefined Saratoga County Racing and Gaming Committee, which will coordinate whatever role the county takes.

“The destination location to me makes the most sense. We already have a casino in the county,” said Grattidge, the immediate past chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors is already on record supporting the Saratoga Casino and Raceway — which, despite its name, has only video slot machines — as a location for a full gaming casino. It would be part of a $30 million expansion at the site, if state regulators bless it.

Grattidge said he sees no reason to change the county board’s position despite the fact that a majority of county residents voted against legalizing gambling in November’s statewide referendum.

A casino elsewhere in the Capital Region — such as a potential riverfront site in Rensselaer — wouldn’t have any economic benefit to the county, he said.

Grattidge’s appointment to the committee was made by new county board Chairman Paul Sausville just a day after new Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen said she doesn’t want a “Las Vegas-style” casino in the city. She said she’s willing to work with the Casino and Raceway, as well as casino opponents, to come up with an acceptable plan.

Sausville said both the casino and horse racing are important to the county’s economy. Previously, the committee focused mostly on ways to protect and encourage horse racing, viewing casinos as potential competition to Saratoga Race Course.

But Sausville said casino gambling now demands equal attention with horse racing as a way to draw visitors to the county.

“We might as well call it the tourism committee. It’s very important,” he said.

Whether the views of either the county or city will matter more than a discarded candy wrapper to the state gaming commission is unclear. The gaming commission will pick among applicant sites, and so far, Saratoga Casino and Raceway is the region’s only certain applicant.

The Moreau Town Board with a straight face has recently proposed the soon-to-close Mount McGregor state prison as a location — though few others take the possibility seriously.

“I think logistically it presents some problems,” Grattidge said. “It is a beautiful location. … The infrastructure is already in place at the Casino and Raceway.”

Pink carnations

Every supervisor who attended Thursday’s organizational meeting — 22 out of 23 did, despite the snow-slickened roads — was presented with a pink carnation.

The flowers came from Clifton Park Supervisor Anita M. Daly, one of just two women now left on the board. Four other female supervisors have left office and been replaced by men, dropping the number of women on the board to two for the first time in more than 30 years.

Daly said there’s a “kind of sadness” about the change, and she offered the carnations to her colleagues as a reminder to think about the points of view of women, who make up 51 percent of the population. Later, she said more efforts are needed to get women involved in local politics.

“I think there needs to be more advocacy to get women involved,” Daly said after the meeting, after huddling with Jean Raymond of Edinburg, the board’s other woman. “Women are busy, they’re running businesses, but we need to get more women involved.”

 
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