We were disappointed, but hardly surprised, to see the politicians of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County officially throw their hats into the casino gambling ring this week by asking the state to open one of its seven proposed casinos in the city.
There’s a ton of money to be made from casino gambling, and since it wouldn’t require the politically difficult step of raising taxes, what’s for a politician not to like?
Well, for starters, there’s the people of the Saratoga region. They’re sure to be the main sheep the casino would be fleecing. With casinos now open, or soon to be, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts — and with the state proposing to open six other casinos elsewhere around New York — why would gamblers outside the region bother driving all the way to Saratoga when they could try their luck so much closer to home?
Saratoga may have a long history of gambling, but aside from its fabled thoroughbred flat track, none of what remains is unique or has any sentimental value.
Yet the region’s horse racing industry — which includes Saratoga’s harness track as well as numerous farms where the horses are bred and trained — would surely suffer from the competition a casino would provide for gamblers’ dollars. City and county officials say they would expect the casino operation to provide some “community benefits,” including help for the racing industry, but why would the state want to make that kind of commitment to Saratoga when it wouldn’t have to elsewhere?
The city and county would, of course, get stuck with the social costs associated with casino gambling — people desperate to get rich quick blowing the rent money in their quest, destroying their lives and their families’, then falling back on the government for assistance. Some of these costs might be offset by the jobs a casino would bring, but all one need do is look at the poverty and despair in a casino resort like Atlantic City to realize that, except for the people who own the casinos, the net impact isn’t exactly positive.
Saratoga officials need to take a hard look at who’s been pushing the community toward this — principally, the owners of the raceway/casino — and take a step back.