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What you need to know for 01/18/2018

Casinos could cripple track

Casinos could cripple track

Region better hope competition for gamblers doesn't kill the golden goose

Ta dah dum-ta-da-dum, dum-ta-da-dum dum dum ta-dah!

In case you hadn’t heard, today is opening day at Saratoga Race Course, and that was “The Call to the Post.”

The Saratoga racing season is Christmas in July and August for the local hospitality industry, and some restaurants, bars and hotels in the area will make as much money over the next 40 days as they will the rest of the year. The Saratoga meet also rings the cash register pretty consistently in stores of all kinds, entertainment venues and other places where people with discretionary income like to spend it.

In fact, the track is one of the largest economic engines in the region, generating an estimated $200 million a year in economic activity from the track operation itself, the racing industry and tourists. So why would the state do anything to kill this golden goose?

That’s what full-scale casino gambling threatens to do, of course, as bettors now flocking to the track every July and August might instead be gambling year-round at any of the four upstate casinos Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sold state lawmakers on, pending the outcome of a statewide referendum this November. Many gamblers without unlimited resources (or incredible luck) might be tapped out by the time the track season arrived. But even if they’re not, they’ll probably pull back on their reins a bit, and that will mean a less-successful Saratoga.

The governor may not think it matters because the state would get its cut of casino profits, so it would be a wash. But not so for the Saratoga region if it caused New York’s racing industry to suffer. The New York Racing Association track, and the horsemen, trainers, jockeys and breeders who supply it, account for more than half of that $200 million economic impact, according to a 2011 study by the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.

It’s one more thing for voters to think about before they pull the lever on casino gambling.

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