Prospective operators of a casino proposed for East Greenbush say they’ll provide a rewards program that encourages gamers to visit businesses in the surrounding communities and other strategies designed to showcase local establishments.
The Saratoga Casino and Raceway operators said they’ll pattern the program after one already in place at the racino in Saratoga Springs, which cross-promotes a number of businesses in the city through its Downtown Business Association. Racino spokeswoman Rita Cox said the casino will provide players with an option to exchange the reward points they earn through gaming for gift cards for participating local restaurants, hotels, services or retailers.
“We know from experience in multiple states that strong local partnerships are the key to a thriving casino that lifts up an entire community and spurs growth throughout the region,” she said in a statement. “As we develop our plan for the casino at East Greenbush, a critical element is to grow the local economy and elevate local businesses.”
The racino operators also announced they will feature an annual celebrity poker tournament to benefit local charities and on-site promotions showcasing local businesses to guests of the facility. They also indicated they’ll provide a “capital concierge” to offer patrons information on local attractions and a “destination shuttle” to bring them to areas of interest around the town and region.
The owners of the Saratoga Springs-based racino are hoping to garner additional local support for a $300 million proposal that includes a 100,000-square-foot casino on roughly 130 acres of vacant land along Thompson Hill — a road adjacent to Route 4 and with access from either Exit 8 or Exit 9 of Interstate 90. Also included in the plan are a 300-room hotel, several restaurants, two parking garages, “multiple entertainment venues” and 20,000 square feet of retail space.
Mark Eagan, president of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, was intrigued by the concept and commended the operators for exploring the idea. Yet he still questioned how the proposed casino would implement such programs and whether such promotion would offset the impact of any amenities included on the site.
“If they use it and they actively promote it, I think it could be a good linkage,” he said. “Conceptually, it sounds OK.”
But the chamber is also part of the Upstate Theaters for a Fair Game — a coalition of entertainment venues aimed at putting restrictions on New York’s multipurpose gaming casinos. And Eagan would like assurance that the East Greenbush proposal would run complementary to other venues in the area, such as the Palace Theatre in Albany or other area concert halls.
“In reality, you have to make sure it’s going to drive business in downtown Troy or downtown Albany,” he said. “If it does, then that’s a good thing.”
The racino’s announcement comes as the state Gaming Commission’s facility location board gets closer to disclosing the minimum capital investment required of prospective operators. The release of the figure sometime before Wednesday is expected to finally shake out the sites among a half-dozen around the Capital Region that could be the site of an application for a casino license.
In total, 22 entities paid the $1 million fee needed for the gaming commission’s background checks. The racino paid the fee twice — once for the East Greenbush site and once for a site it is considering in the Orange County town of Newburgh.
These entities have until five days after the release of the minimum capital investment requirement to request a refund of the fee. The facility location board meets Monday and could release the figure at that time.
Casino applications are due no later than June 30. The board is expected to issue licenses for up to four sites for three regions around the state, as many as two of them in the Capital Region.