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Saratoga Springs' Oversight Of Racino Expansion Diminished

Saratoga Springs City Hall
Lucas Willard

Now that a full-size casino is off the table, local government could have less of a hand in the oversight of a planned expansion at Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

Reporting this week revealed that the City of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County were not listed as involved agencies in an environmental assessment form filed by the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

According to Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, the Saratoga Casino and Raceway submitted a State Environmental Quality Review Act application in February that listed the New York State Gaming Commission as the lead agency and included the City and County as involved agencies as it pursues its expansion.

However, a new SEQRA form submitted in April listed Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County as “interested” agencies, taking away much of the city’s voice in the process.

Yepsen said the new form only requested some water and sewer needs from the city.

“I have reached out to the Gaming Commission and I haven’t gotten a response yet as to why, but the racino folks indicated the reason was is because all they were looking for from the City of Saratoga Springs is an increased water flow.”

The Raceway will still pursue its $30 million expansion unveiled last spring, which includes a hotel and multi-purpose event space but won’t include table games in the video-lottery based casino space.

The expanded events space at the racino’s addition was a primary concern of the Saratoga City Center and Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Saratoga Casino and Raceway is currently bidding for a casino resort project in East Greenbush that would include a showroom in its entertainment space.

Saratoga City Center President Mark Baker has said that more multi-purpose event space backed by casino interests could undermine established performing arts venues throughout the Capital Region.

"A competitive gaming event center with live entertainment and exhibit capabilities, underwritten by gaming revenues, would be devastating to the performing arts community, including SPAC, Proctor's, Palace, UPH and event facilities which would include the (Saratoga) City Center and the (Albany) Times Union Center."

Saratoga Casino and Raceway is also pursuing a casino project in the Hudson Valley town of Newburgh located off Route 17K, near Interstates 84 and 87.

Yepsen said the city has expressed its concerns to the Saratoga Casino and Raceway in a meeting, and has invited the Racino to attend Tuesday night’s city council meeting, as well as appearing before the city’s planning board.

“But the idea is that we’re going to keep our city involved in this process, and ensure that we submit public comment through the SEQRA process,” said Yepsen. “Regardless of how we’re listed we’re going to move forward in that direction, and  clearly the law of New York State does not require them to go through any local zoning issues, but we feel as a community it’s important to alert them of any concerns or issues that we might have.”

Spokeswoman Rita Cox could also not be reached Friday. She told the Times Union that the Saratoga Casino and Raceway would continue working with the city.

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