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Saratoga Casino Hotel Announces $8 Million Renovation Plan

Skip Carlson of Saratoga Casino Hotel speaks at a press conference
Lucas Willard
Skip Carlson of Saratoga Casino Hotel speaks at a press conference

Home to a harness track and a gambling floor with slot machines and other video gaming tables, the Saratoga Casino Hotel has announced a new strategy to compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Just 25 miles from the Rivers Casino in Schenectady, and a few hours’ drive from new casinos in Monticello and Springfield, Massachusetts, the Saratoga Casino Hotel has taken a financial hit over the last two years.

Skip Carlson, Vice President of External Affairs, said the Saratoga Casino Hotel had originally expected to lose 40 percent of its gross gaming revenue after Rivers opened. After two years, Carlson said the casino took a smaller 25 percent loss. 

“Twenty-five percent is a significant amount but we’ve plateaued and we hope to start gaining some of that market share back,” said Carlson.

To compete, Saratoga Casino Hotel plans to spend $8 million on renovations. General manager Alex Tucker walked an audience of reporters and local officials through a slideshow detailing what’s coming to the facilities on Thursday.

“The centerpiece of this investment is the all new sports bar. Our new sports bar will be the largest and most impressive bar that we have on property both from a visual and a technical standpoint,” said Tucker.

In addition to the sports bar, there will be a new VIP lounge; self-service beverage stations with water, soft drinks, and coffee; new multimedia screens; upgraded lighting and sound systems; a reconfigured gaming floor; and new carpeting. And Vapor Nightclub, which has put on live music and DJ shows since opening in 2007, will continue.

“Overall, the renovations will more closely align the architecture and styling on the casino floor to our hotel, creating a more seamless transition from one end of the property to another,” said Tucker.

The location’s namesake hotel opened in 2016 after companies, including the Saratoga Casino Hotel, were bidding for resort-style gambling licenses in upstate New York. The Capital Region license wound up going to Schenectady instead of other possible sites like Saratoga Springs, Rensselaer, and East Greenbush.

Saratoga Casino Hotel, which began offering so-called Video Lottery Terminal gambling in 2004, does not have traditional table games like poker and blackjack.

Despite the crowded market, Carlson believes the facility has something the other, larger casinos don’t: location. 

“I think the advantage that we have over a lot of these other competitors is Saratoga Springs. And I can’t say that enough. And we have great partners in the Chamber and Discover Saratoga that help us leverage everything that’s good about Saratoga.”

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce promotes amenities in the region across the Northeast.

Chamber President Todd Shimkus…

“If you were to pick the sort of strategic metros that we know that we’re definitely serving into, it’s New York City, it’s Long Island, it’s northern New Jersey, it’s Hartford, it’s Connecticut, it’s Boston, it’s Springfield, Buffalo, Syracuse, some areas in Pennsylvania as well, and a little bit into Maryland too,” said Shimkus.

Shimkus said the chamber directs its promotional materials based not only on geography, but also consumer behavior.

The renovations at Saratoga Casino Hotel are expected to be completed by this fall.

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