State officials: Name sites in casino bill; include Saratoga Springs among choices
Monday, March 11, 2013
SARATOGA SPRINGS — State officials, backed by local leaders, say full casino sites should be identified before putting a gambling referendum to a public vote in November.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione and Assemblymen Tony Jordan and James Tedisco unveiled a Casino Gaming Transparency Act outside City Hall on Monday, flanked by city, county and racing industry representatives.
The group also called for Saratoga Gaming & Raceway to be among the sites chosen for a Las Vegas-style casino with live dealers and more table games, instead of electronic gaming only.
“Our casino, right now, is ready,” said Marchione, R-Halfmoon. “The vibrancy of equine farming is also important to this area. It’s not just about gaming.”
The state Legislature is expected to approve a bill this spring calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow full casinos in New York, with games such as roulette, poker and baccarat. However, the public’s approval is also needed and the measure could be put to a statewide referendum this fall.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the first casinos should be at three upstate locations, but he hasn’t indicated where. Marchione, Jordan and Tedisco said it’s unfair to ask the public to vote for something without first having all the details.
They also wants casinos to be put at existing racetrack locations, which could be upgraded and start generating revenue more quickly than starting from scratch at a non-racetrack site.
The bill also would guarantee that both thoroughbred and harness racing continue getting a share of gaming revenue.
The new casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, in Queens, generates money for all three New York Racing Association tracks – Aqueduct, Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park. The racecourse is marking its 150th anniversary this summer, with numerous special events planned.
“We are lucky enough in Saratoga to be the stewards of the greatest racing event not only in the United States, but the world,” said Tom Gallo, Parting Glass Racing founder and managing partner.
There are eight other racetrack casinos in New York, one at Finger Lakes thoroughbred track and seven harness tracks, including Saratoga’s. A portion of gaming income at each track goes to their respective racing programs.
“This (legislation) will provide ongoing support to that important industry,” said Jordan, R-Jackson.
Likewise, the group says putting full-scale gambling at non-racetrack sites would hurt existing racetrack casinos. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has voiced support for a free-standing casino in the Sullivan County Catskills and Lake George has been mentioned as a possible location, too.
“It doesn’t make sense to build more gaming centers,” said Tedisco, R-Schenectady. “We already have a racino here. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
The new casino bill will be formally introduced today or Tuesday, Jordan said.