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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SAVE Sits This One Out

The Saratoga Springs City Council met on Tuesday night; but unlike the prior meeting - as described here by Thomas Dimopoulos on the Saratoga Wire site - the anti-casino expansion group SAVE did not attend. Destination Saratoga - the harness track-funded group in favor of a full casino at the harness track - bused in at least 100 supporters, and the group declined to engage.

“We do not want to contribute to the illusion the hired PR firm is trying to create that there’s some kind of division in our community on this issue,” said SAVE Saratoga founder Colin Klepetar, who attended the meeting but did not speak out. [Saratogian]
So, it was a one-sided argument, including a dire warning, as reported by Saratogian reporter Caitlin Morris on her Twitter feed, that the harness track in Saratoga will not survive.....if the casino goes to Albany or Renneslaer counties. Purse structures won't hold up.  Obviously, fear will be a major tool of the casino supporters as they tell us about all the awful things that will happen if the casino goes somewhere else.  The interesting thing about this particular speaker is that he's a member of the Saratoga Harness Horseman's Association.  Intuitively, to me, anyone associated with horse racing should be terrified by the coming casino age in the state. However, the harness horsemen - who are not rolling in purse dough like their thoroughbred counterparts to start with (you can see the purses for a typical weekday for yourself here) - would, I imagine, be particularly susceptible to the fear-mongering and it's understandable why they would be nervous.

Of course, is isn't clear either what the effects of a Saratoga casino being approved would be on the harness horsemen either.  Unlike the VLT's, a percentage of revenue from which for purses is mandated by law, it's unclear if any table game revenue would be earmarked for racing.  What's more, VLT payments would be frozen at 2012 levels, and track management's obligation to maintain current racing dates would be subject, according to the authorizing law, to the vague notion of what is deemed appropriate by the [Gaming] commission.  And that's not to mention any local gambling revenue that would be lost to increased gambling options. So I think that the gentleman from the Saratoga horsemen has things to fear about either outcome.

The New York Times came out with an editorial against a Saratoga casino, which probably has some supporters telling them to mind their own B-I business!  Citing the majority of Saratoga residents who voted against the referendum, the Times notes:
The problem is that Saratoga Springs residents can’t say no if the state decides to place a casino in their area. In Massachusetts, for instance, local residents can vote to reject a casino development in their community. New York State law offers no community veto. It will be up to a new gaming commission and its appointees to choose where and what the new casinos will be.
Well, and again, tell that to the Massachusetts voters in East Boston who voted against a casino at Suffolk Downs. In a piece on, Jim Aloisi, a former state secretary of transportation (and a self-described "unabashed George McGovern liberal"), explains why he thinks that the track's plan to instead build a casino on track property that's in the neighboring town of Revere insults East Boston.
What’s worse, when East Boston voters resoundingly voted against the casino, the immediate response (of doubtful legality) was to fashion an electoral bait-and-switch by offering a supposedly “Revere-only” casino site. The Revere-only proposal is an insult to East Boston’s intelligence, not simply because such an outcome is not practically feasible (unless the owners are prepared to accept a perpetual restriction on the use of their East Boston land for non-casino uses), but also because it proposes to relocate horse stables and highways on the East Boston side of the site. Imagine that you are the mayor of Boston, and you have a 100-acre, largely undeveloped site in your city that is two minutes away from an international airport and adjacent to two MBTA stations and an urban wetland. And the owner tells you he wants to use the land for horse stables and a roadway system to feed into another city. You might throw that person out of your office, or at least question his sanity. But that is exactly what Suffolk Downs is proposing to do on this site.
The two contenders for the Boston-area licenses - Mohegan Sun (Suffolk Downs/Revere) and Wynn Resorts (Everett) - will present to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Wednesday.

- At a hearing of the NY Gaming Commission on Tuesday, harness interests continued their efforts to stave off the imposition of uniform medication rules for clenbuterol and corticosteroids that they contend are inspired by problems in the thoroughbred industry and not appropriate for their breed.
Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, made the case before the NYGC.

He suggested a rash of breakdowns among Thoroughbreds a few years ago at Aqueduct Racetrack was the impetus for the push for the new rules in New York. Meanwhile, the rate of deaths in Standardbreds in New York is a fraction of those in Thoroughbred racing, Faraldo said.  "(The RMTC) has drafted rules it sees best fitted for Thoroughbred racing," Faraldo said. [Bloodhorse]