Saratoga Springs casino backers form coalition
Group aims to counter organized opposition
SARATOGA SPRINGS Advocates for bringing live-table gaming to Saratoga Springs have formed a coalition aimed at countering the message of critics claiming a Las Vegas-style casino will negatively impact the city’s downtown.
Destination Saratoga describes itself as a cross-section of community members and local business owners who support the expansion of gaming at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway. They argue casino gambling will bring increased vigor to the city’s economy, while preventing the economic benefits and job creation from going to another community in the Capital Region.
“Keeping these resources locally will go a long way to ensuring Saratoga is a year-round destination for travelers from across the globe,” said Dan Hogan, the organization’s co-chairman.
The group is arguing that an expansion of table gaming at the racino would add as many as 700 jobs to the local economy and generate $5.5 million annually for Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County. They believe an incremental expansion at the racino — a facility that has operated video lottery terminals since 2004 — would prevent a behemoth Las Vegas-style casino from being drawn to the community.
“Our community has worked with Saratoga Casino and Raceway to the benefit of our local residents for nearly a decade,” said Hank Kuczynski, another of Destination Saratoga’s co-chairmen. “We’ve been a model community for how gaming and local businesses can complement each other, and I support continuing this winning relationship as casino gaming expands in our region.”
The new coalition brings with it significant name recognition. Hogan served as the chairman of the state Racing and Wagering Board in 2008, while Kuczynski served as the city’s deputy mayor under Democrat Ken Klotz.
Also among the names associated with Destination Saratoga is Gordon Boyd, the president of EnergyNext and a former candidate for Spa City mayor. Jasper Nolan, the longtime chairman of the county Republican Party who retired last year, is also listed in the group, along with Adam Madkour, the president of Saratoga Spring Water Co.; former Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation director Carrie Woerner; and Marcy Taylor, a member of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee.
The decision on where to locate a casino in the Capital Region will rest with a five-member board selected by the state Gaming Commission once the gaming legislation becomes law in January.
The selection process will require prospective casino operators to submit applications for gaming facility licenses. The board will grant licenses based on a variety of factors, including how many jobs a proposal creates, the amount of capital investment planned, the level of revenue expected to be generated for the state and financing availability.
Other lesser factors include the level of local support for a casino, the number of amenities included in the proposal, how the facility will integrate with regional tourism, the operator’s experience in gaming development and the speed with which the project can be built.
State officials have said all applications will be weighted the same and no operator has an inside track in landing a casino.
Last month, a group of community organizers launched a campaign to oppose the development of a casino with table games in the city. Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion was established to present an opposing perspective to those advocating for one of the state’s four casinos to be located at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway or anywhere else in the county.
On Wednesday, the anti-casino group accused their counterparts of conducting a telephone poll in the Saratoga County area designed to contradict the results of November’s referendum, during which residents in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding county soundly opposed the legalization of table games in the state.
“This is a classic push poll,” said Colin Klepetar, one of the leaders of the anti-casino coalition. “It uses loaded or manipulated questions to get the results the casino forces want. This is a smokescreen to convince local officials to ignore the will of the voters.”
Klepetar said his group has identified the pollsters as coming from a firm in Florida called Kalamata Research Services, but declined to identify who funded the poll. A spokesman for Destination Saratoga said the recently formed group hasn’t done any polling.