Trying to ensure that state casino legislation benefits the Saratoga area will be one of the top lobbying priorities in Albany for Saratoga County officials.
County committees have endorsed county positions on 14 issues, and the Board of Supervisors will give them what should be routine approval Feb. 26 at a meeting in Ballston Spa.
Members of the Legislative and Research Committee, who will travel to Albany in early March to discuss their priorities with local legislators, said trying to land a full-service casino for Saratoga — and assuring that Saratoga Race Course isn’t harmed in the process — are top issues, assuming full gambling becomes legal in New York state.
“We want to see that the racing industry is protected, and that there’s an appropriate revenue-sharing formula [with horse racing],” said Ryan Moore, the county’s management analyst.
The state Legislature this year is expected to consider a constitutional amendment that would allow full casino gambling in the state. Legislative approval this year would put the matter up for voter referendum this November.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who supports legalizing casinos, has said that he would like initially to see three casinos built upstate — but he has not named locations.
Local officials generally feel that the video-lottery terminal gambling that’s been available at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway since 2004 has been successful in creating jobs, generating money for the state, and helping support harness racing at the track.
“Allowing a full casino at this location would enhance all these positive impacts, and there is broad community support for such an initiative,” according to a memorandum prepared for county supervisors. They think a full casino would increase the benefits, but want assurance some of the revenue would benefit thoroughbred horse racing.
Supervisors also want the Legislature to restore the host community benefits the city and the county receive for having the Casino and Raceway to pre-2009 levels.
The funds were cut during the state budget crisis. The county now receives $499,000 annually, compared with $1.1 million before the recession. The city got $1.5 million this year, down from $3.8 million before the recession.
The supervisors also plan to ask legislators to oppose any new state-imposed programs that don’t come with financial reimbursement, including a call by Cuomo to have “early voting” in New York state — a move supervisors said would require counties to pay for polling place staff before Election Day.