Word that the governor is prepared to shell out $11.4 million a year to municipalities that host casinos stoked renewed discussion Monday around this community known for its history of gambling and betting on horse racing.
If New Yorkers next month approve a constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-style casinos and Saratoga Springs is selected to have one, the city and county would each receive $5.7 million annually, half the $11.4 million prize that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Budget Division has forecast for the region’s host community.
“That’s a lot of money, even if the numbers seem high,” city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said. But city residents need assurances that state leaders won’t reduce host funding like they did with revenue from video lottery terminals at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, Madigan said. She was referring to the $1.8 million the city and county each got from the state this year for the VLTs, down from the $3.5 million received in prior years.
The governor’s Division of the Budget has projected that four new upstate casinos would generate $430 million a year in state revenue that would be allocated to education and local governments.
If voters approve the Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act in a Nov. 5 referendum, one of the four casinos would be located in an eight-county area that includes the Capital Region. The eight counties — Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Fulton, Montgomery, Washington and Schoharie — would share $35.5 million a year out of the statewide total, according to the Budget Division.
According to the Budget Division, 80 percent of the state’s casino revenues would be used statewide for elementary and secondary education and property tax relief, 10 percent would be split equally between host municipalities and host counties, and 10 percent would go to other counties in regions with new casinos.
Albany County would receive more than $6 million a year, even if it doesn’t host a casino, according to the state. Saratoga County would take in $4.63 million if it is not a host but would still be eligible for $2.2 million on top of the $5.7 million if it is a host. The county and Saratoga Springs will continue to receive $1.8 million in VLT funding, city Supervisor Joanne Yepsen said.
The other upstate casinos would be in the Catskills and Southern Tier. One of the regions may get two casinos. The four casinos would generate an estimated $94.4 million annually for New York City; $93.1 million for Western New York/Finger Lakes; $63.3 million for Long Island; $51 million for the Catskill/Hudson Valley, including $13.7 million for hosting a facility; $44.2 million for central New York/Mohawk Valley; $20.1 million to the eastern Southern Tier, including $6.4 million for a host facility; and $16.8 million a year for the North Country, according to the Budget Division.
Alan Grattidge, chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, said county leaders would be receptive to being named a host community. “It’s a win-win,” he said.
However, the creator of “Saratogians Against More Casino Gambling in Our Town” called casinos a “net loss” for small businesses and other entertainment venues.
Colin Klepetar of Saratoga Springs said the reimbursements will not make up for losses the casino will create in the community.
“There’s only so much money that people spend on entertainment,” Klepetar said. “Local bars and restaurants will not do as well because they will be competing against deeper pockets.”