Saratoga Springs mayor: State casino plan poses a threat
City economy in good shape, Johnson reports
SARATOGA SPRINGS The city of Saratoga Springs is in sound economic condition with an expanding tax base, a very successful downtown and a positive outlook for the future, Mayor Scott Johnson said Thursday. But there are also uncertainties on the horizon.
Johnson’s comments came in his annual State of the City address at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
“Perhaps the greatest uncertainty facing Saratoga is the future of casino gaming, with its potential impact on the thoroughbred racing industry and our local racino, Saratoga Casino and Raceway,” he told an audience of more than 100.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his recent State of the State address, proposed that three gambling casinos be located in upstate New York but did not give specific locations.
Johnson said leaving the casino site selection to a new state Gaming Commission after the issue has been presented to voters across the state in November would be a disservice to the voters and the city.
City and Saratoga County officials want one of these three upstate casino sites to be at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs and also want the three proposed casino sites be disclosed to voters before they go to the polls in November.
“Come on Albany, lay all the cards on the table,” Johnson said to loud applause.
He said a new full-service gambling casino located anywhere near the Saratoga region would endanger the proven success of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway as well as the continued success of the historic Saratoga Race Course.
The State of the City address was attended by members of the City Council, the city’s county supervisors, state legislators representing the Saratoga region and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
The past year, Johnson said, featured numerous economic and capital improvement highlights, including the opening of the 470-car Woodlawn Avenue parking garage at the start of the Saratoga horse racing season in July.
Johnson said there are “many financial indicators, together with ongoing economic development, indicating our city being relatively strong, stronger than most, despite the new economic realities at play.”
Included in these indicators are:
- City sales tax revenue was 5.5 percent higher in 2012 than 2011.
- The city’s unrestricted, unreserved fund balance, or budget surplus, increased in 2012 and there was no city tax increase.
- The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau reported that bookings increased 34 percent.
- The Saratoga Springs City Center bookings were up more than 10 percent to reach an all-time high of 256 days booked for the year.
“Yes, there are uncertainties and challenges facing us, but the greatest certainty of all is the talent and dedication of our city to continue the momentum into the future for even more success,” Johnson said.