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Friday, November 22, 2013

Saratoga Residents Hoping for a Big SAVE

Voters in Saratoga County voted against the referendum and now there's an active grass roots movement in Saratoga Springs opposing the siting of a casino at the harness track.  (Which of course already has a racino which is almost a casino.)

SAVE is the rather contrived acronym (Saratogians Against Vegas-Style Expansion), and here's their website.  Here, they cite the usual concerns; most significantly to me in this particular case considering that there is already gaming and entertainment there, the worry that converting the racino into a grand "destination," complete with a hotel and even more dining and entertainment options, will damage businesses in downtown Saratoga and forever alter the nature of the 'historic' town.  

Local establishments in Iowan cities couldn't compete with casino subsidized drinks, meals and hotel rooms, taxable retail sales in Iowa cities without casinos grew more than five times faster than sales in cities with casinos, leading researchers to conclude, “the operation of a casino in a mid-size city, far from contributing to economic development, creates a measurable drain on the economy of the city.”
They also point to neighboring Massachusetts, where individual localities get to decide on their own fate (which didn't help the voters of East Boston, who rejected a casino at Suffolk Downs, since that track straddles two voting districts and the other one approved); emphasizing that voters in the city of Saratoga Springs rejected the referendum by an even higher margin (57 to 43) than did the overall county (54 to 46).

Opponents gathered at a meeting on Monday to express their concerns.  All of this must be causing consternation for the Saratoga Casino and Raceway owner James Featherstonberghaughsteinamatoberg, the head of NYGA, which ultimately agreed to support the referendum.  I've long speculated here that he helped seal the deal for a casino at the harness track in a backroom deal in exchange for the organization's tacit support.  Local opposition could surely throw a wrench into his plans, though it doesn't guarantee anything.
  But Saratoga's 27,000 residents can't stop a casino. That's because when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature crafted the law they refused to provide a local veto — common in states like Massachusetts, where two communities rejected casinos last week.

The law does say casino operators seeking a license must win "public support in the host and nearby communities," which could take the form of local laws, putting the question of support in the hands of elected officials, or through public comment. [AP]
Already, the opposition has led to the cancellation of a vote by Saratoga County leaders to endorse a casino.   But supporters of a casino will be able to state their case at a forum in Saratoga Springs on December 16.

The effort in Saratoga is the kind of groundswell of opposition that we just didn't hear about prior to the vote. I wonder if we would have seen such movements in NYC if casinos were imminent here instead of [supposedly, ha ha] seven years away. I also wonder if Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio still would have said he was in favor.  As I pointed out in this post, I think the concept of casinos is a contradiction of his main talking point of income inequality and the "tale of two cities."  But he was able to keep a low profile on the issue, and came out quietly in favor, no doubt in part to curry favor with the governor from whom he'll need support to pass the tax increases that he seeks.

About a half hour south of Saratoga, the city council of Rensallaer, where county voters narrowly approved the referendum, voted unanimously in favor of building one on the waterfront.

 - Yes, I'm old enough to remember.  I was in elementary school, and I recall being dismissed early without an explanation.  I recall the sight of the yellow school buses all lined up to take us home.  I recall being on the bus amidst the usual din of kids at the end of a school day, amplified in this case by the unexpected early end to the day.  And then I remember - quite vividly, as if....and I know we're reading this phrase a lot just happened yesterday, the bus driver turning around and shouting: "Can we please be quiet and have a little respect!  President Kennedy was just killed!"  And I remember the silence as we headed home.  It's the only memory whatsoever that I have of whatever school that was.

1 Comment:

ljk said...

Thought the racino folks were going to build their destination hotel regardless?