The Saratoga harness track will proceed with a $30 million upgrade; and, as opposed to a slightly richer plan offered last year with the contingency of being granted one of the coveted casino licenses, this one comes with no such strings attached. Of course, the message and intent is quite obvious.
But the operators also made it clear, without once mentioning the term "table games," that they believe the existing Saratoga Casino and Raceway is an ideal spot for a full gaming resort given Saratoga's history as a gambling town, its status as a horse racing landmark and the presence of attractions including the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, museums and spring-fed baths.Featherstonhaugh might be feeling pretty good about his chances these days. Besides his long-standing prominence amongst the ranks of Albany lobbyists with the "influential" label, he knows that the playing field of areas eligible for a casino has shrunk considerably with the deals that Governor Cuomo struck with two tribes, granting regional exclusivity (other than existing facilities) in exchange for a share of Indian gaming revenues. That development is cheering other hopefuls around the state, such as the proposed project at the Nevele resort in Ellenville. (Negotiations continue with the Seneca tribe.....the big prize for the governor, as that tribe has withheld some $500 million in payments over their claims that racinos violate the terms of their compact, which expires in 2016.)
"Here in Saratoga we have the best of everything," said James Featherstonhaugh, the racino's chief spokesman and part owner, as he unveiled a $30 million expansion that includes a 120-room hotel and a 24,000-square-foot venue that could host mixed martial arts events if that sport is approved by lawmakers. [Times Union]
However, I still think that Saratoga, or any other of the existing racinos, have to be considered longshots given the extremely strong language that the governor used in expressing opposition to siting casinos there last year. And personally, I rather fear the prospect of charming little Saratoga becoming a gambling city. Well, you know......that kind of gambling.
I believe I missed during the Derby rush the news that Cuomo intends to go ahead with the casino referendum this year despite some earlier misgivings over the fact that New York City voters figure to dominate the turnout with the mayoral election, and with no state-wide legislative elections on tap. He still has to get the legislation through however, so expect a flurry of activity as the legislative session enters its final month and some lawmakers seek to expand upon his plan to limit the first round of casinos to three located upstate.