Times Union

The pro-casino group Destination Saratoga released a statement Wednesday in which they quote horsemen and others, saying casino gambling would be good for sustaining horse racing in the city. There’s some serious political name-dropping in this. I think Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen is named six times. Destination Saratoga consists of those who support an expansion of gambling at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, “racino” employees and stakeholders in the project. Its public relations are being handled by the prominent SKD Knickerbocker firm. Here’s the full statement:

“Destination Saratoga today announced that several high-profile leaders of the Capital Region’s critical horse racing industry have added their voices to the growing coalition in support of bringing the region’s full commercial casino license to Saratoga Springs. John Stark, Edward Miller, Scott Mongeon and Frank Salino – key members of the local horse racing community – today endorsed expanded gaming at Saratoga Casino and Raceway because no other entity in the state has been a bigger supporter of horse racing industry.

“Destination Saratoga shares Mayor Yepsen’s focus on strengthening the local horse racing industry, which directly employs 1,200 of our neighbors. There’s no better partner for the horse racing industry than Saratoga Casino and Raceway, and we know that by expanding gaming options at the existing casino, that partnership will continue long into the future,” said Dan Hogan, Co-Chair of Destination Saratoga.

In her State of the City address last month, Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen called on the community to make strengthening the local horse industry a top priority, saying, “Now more than ever we need to remember what is really important to our local economy and bring horse racing back to the center of this conversation.” Mayor Yepsen stressed the need to find solutions that keep horse racing “alive and well in Saratoga Springs, where it belongs and where it’s been since 1847.”

In response to that call to action, a number of members of the horse racing community have come forward to support Destination Saratoga, and join in its call for expanding gaming at SCR and keeping those benefits in the local community.

Frank Salino, a horseman at Saratoga Raceway who also breeds horses on his farm in the Town of Greenfield, said: “For the last ten years, VLT revenues have protected jobs and strengthened the local racing industry, and horse racing is central to our region’s sustained economic growth. Horse trainers, breeders and racers agree that this is a homegrown industry and belongs right here in Saratoga. An expanded casino is an important step in keeping it that way.”

“Mayor Yepsen’s desire to work with the horse racing industry to strengthen our economic prospects is welcome. To keep other communities from challenging Saratoga, the best thing we can do to support the industry is ensure a strong VLT revenue stream right here in our backyard,” said John Stark, a trainer, driver, and owner of John Stark Jr. Stables, LLC in Saratoga.

Edward Miller, horse owner, trainer and resident of Saratoga Springs, said: “The reality is, a casino sited in any other location further jeopardizes the future of thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs. For 150 years, locals and fans from around the world have enjoyed horse racing at a world-class venue. It’s time for the people of Saratoga Springs to support the expansion of casino gambling in Saratoga.”

“Horse racing has been a cornerstone of this community for 150 years and is a key part of our local identity, and I agree with Mayor Yepsen that we must do everything in our power to make strengthening the equine industry a top priority. That’s why I support bringing a full commercial casino to Saratoga because it will ensure a bright future for local racing and horsemen in our community,” said Scott Mongeon, a Saratoga Springs resident who works as a trainer, driver and horse owner.

Tommy McTygue, a Destination Saratoga Steering Committee Member, former Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner and standardbred horse owner, said “There is no bigger supporter in New York State of the horse racing industry than Saratoga Casino and Raceway, and our industry is critical to the character and economy of Saratoga Springs and the entire Capital Region. I agree with Mayor Yepsen that we have a responsibility to be custodians of this great sport and that horse racing – harness and thoroughbred – are a top priority for the City and Saratoga Springs, which is why I support expanding gaming in Saratoga.”

The horse industry is a critical part of Saratoga’s local culture and employs 1,200 local residents. For the past 10 years, Saratoga Casino and Raceway has generated VLT revenues that protected jobs, as well as strengthening the local horse industry by adding racing days and attracting visitors from across the globe. If the current casino is awarded the region’s commercial casino license and allowed to add table games, it would mean increased and sustained support for the local horse industry.”