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Casino Groups React To New York Times Editorial

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In a piece published in the New York Times Tuesday, the editorial board came out against a proposed resort casino in Saratoga Springs.

The article brings more attention to a subject that has been the center of ongoing community debate since before New Yorkers approved the state ballot measure to expand casino gambling in November.

The Times criticized New York’s casino law in a prior editorial published in late October. In Tuesday’s online edition, the editorial board explained that New York’s casino law does not allow communities to hold votes for or against a casino sited by the state gaming commission, unlike neighboring Massachusetts.

The article also brought up matters echoed by anti-casino voices in Saratoga Springs, saying:

“Having no real say in the matter is simply unfair to the communities that are often saddled with the downsides of these gambling operations. The police often have to cope with more traffic, more crime. Local businesses often see fewer customers, not more. These casino resorts draw busloads of people, but they are designed to keep visitors on the grounds with restaurants and shops. Most people have no need to venture into the surrounding area.”

SAVE Saratoga, the group organized against casino expansion at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, is in agreement with the paper of record’s editorial board.

“We’re concerned with the fact that bringing a casino to Saratoga Spring without any local control or local voice or local say is not a part of the Democratic process,” said SAVE co-founder Colin Klepetar. “Most other communities are fully embracing brining a casino to their community and Saratoga Springs does not.”

The editorial points to the fact that more than 57 percent of Saratoga Springs voters voted against the November casino amendment, a point often heralded by SAVE Saratoga.

Former mayoral candidate Gordon Boyd of the group Destination Saratoga, which is in support of bringing table games and the planned expansion at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, said the editorial presented misleading information.

“I think it would have been better if they had applied more of the information than they put in their editorial or news article,” said Boyd. “But I look at it as an example of journalistic colonialism for some editorial writers in midtown Manhattan to pretend that they know what’s best for a very successful upstate New York city, of which there are not many examples.”

On Tuesday evening, Destination Saratoga packed the City Council chambers to voice its support to city officials on the benefits of bringing more gambling to Saratoga Springs, which the group says will increase tourism and bring more direct and indirect jobs to the city.

Boyd believes Destination Saratoga and SAVE Saratoga are both seeking what they believe is best for the city, now that conversations surrounding casino proposals are beginning to surface in the region.

"I think we do have common concerns, but I think with new information and as the program develops here over the next several months, our leaders in the community will come to the conclusion that the expansion is in Saratoga Springs's best interest," said Boyd. "And it's certainly much more in our best interest to have the casino here than to have it 35 miles in a neighboring county where it would draw business away from Saratoga Springs completely."

Recently, it was reported that the Tobin’s First Prize Center in Albany was under consideration for possible casino development by Rochester-based Capital Gaming, LCC.

The SAVE Saratoga group has also rallied in front of city officials in recent weeks. Colin Klepetar said he asked group members to stay home from the council meeting attended by Destination Saratoga supporters, because he believes the message of jobs leaving the area if a casino is sited in a nearby county is a non-issue, due to protections for the Casino and Raceway’s purses  written into the casino gambling law.

"We're trying to help our elected officials to make the best decision based on the facts and based on the law," said Klepetar. "And by perpetuating this issue is not helping us nor the city council, nor other residents, move towards a decision based on the facts."

Klepetar said he attended Tuesday's meeting as a regular citizen.

A small number of individuals in the audience wore badges identifying themselves as casino opponents.

EDIT 1/24/13 - The Destination Saratoga group claims it is incorrect to suggest the protections in the casino law for purses and breeding programs from VLT revenues would also protect jobs at the Casino and Raceway.  

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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