Both the Saratoga Springs City Council and the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday endorsed having a full-service casino located in the city, should state voters approve a pro-gambling constitutional amendment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, told his cabinet earlier Tuesday that he doesn’t want the proposed constitutional amendment to name specific casino sites.
Cuomo said his preference is not to name specific cities in the enabling legislation for the amendment to allow seven non-Indian casinos. Instead, he said he preferred to allow bidding casino operators to identify where they would like to operate.
He added, however, that localities should have a say in whether they do or don’t want a casino.
Saratoga officials are already offering their answer. They say the Saratoga Casino and Raceway — a harness racing track with video lottery terminals — is one of the places a casino should be located.
“This has huge economic development implications for the city and for the county,” said Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, one of the city’s representatives on the county Board of Supervisors. “What would be really damaging for Saratoga is if it goes somewhere else nearby.”
Lake George has been mentioned as another possible casino site.
If Saratoga gets a casino, the county and city would be looking for host community benefits — and also for some of the casino revenue to be invested in thoroughbred horse racing, which is the city’s bread and butter during the summer tourism season.
“We want some of the money recycled back into horse racing to keep horse racing strong,” Yepsen said. Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson echoed that concern.
If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Casino and Raceway officials have said they want to be one of the sites, and they would invest $40 million in a hotel and casino expansion.
The statewide discussion on casino gambling is expected to heat up in the next year, and possibly come to a referendum next November. The state Legislature, which voted in favor of a constitutional amendment last March, must do so again next year, and then schedule the referendum.
Cuomo has endorsed a casino amendment, saying the state is losing revenue and tourism to neighboring states that have legal gambling, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There are already several successful Indian-run casinos in New York state.
The county board’s approval at a meeting in Ballston Spa was unanimous, even though the primary economic benefit is likely to be to the Saratoga Springs area.
“When I’m here, I’m a county supervisor. I think the county will benefit, and when the county benefits the town of Edinburg benefits,” said Supervisor Jean Raymond, R-Edinburg.