The area around Exit 23 of the New York State Thruway, in Albany, is proving to be a popular location amongst prospective casino operators. The proposal, being referred to as "E23," was devised by David Flaum, a Rochester shopping mall developer, in conjunction with Capitol OTB. The site is on a parcel of land currently owned by the family of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and is off the beaten path enough to satisfy some of those concerned with urban issues related to casinos. (And, like the proposal at the Concord, it also includes a water park. Don't quite understand what is up with that!) It was the subject of a meeting of the Albany city council (Common Council) on Monday night, where a resolution supporting the project was introduced, drawing the usual divided sentiment from the residents in attendance (though, according to this report, more against than in favor).
Patrick McCarthy, a spokesman for Flaum, said "somewhere around 10" different casino operators have contacted Flaum about the Albany casino project. A company with casino experience is a crucial factor in the proposals for one of the four casino licenses the state Gaming Commission will grant in three regions of upstate New York. [Albany Times-Union]One of those operators, Pinnacle Entertainment, has met with Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. Pinnacle is the former Hollywood Park, Inc., before it sold the doomed racetrack of that name to Churchill Downs. It currently owns Retama Park, Belterra Park (the former River Downs), and 14 casinos.
The developments in Albany are part of the flurry of activity in the Capitol District in reaction to the perception that the Saratoga Springs casino is dead. That notion is a result of the Gaming Commission's announcement, as part of its request for applications, that local support of a casino is required. In writing.
Casino operators must submit a resolution from the host community showing support for granting the license. That means the Saratoga Springs City Council would have to approve a resolution of support by the June 30 application deadline if the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway pursue a license to offer live table games in addition to video slot machines--a decision that the owners of the racino are still weighing. [Albany Business Review]As you may recall, the Saratoga City Council passed a resolution against a casino last month.
However, it was reported last week on Twitter that Saratoga Casino and Raceway principal James Featherstonhaugh is stepping down from the NY Gaming Association to focus on casino bid. That tweet was linked to a story behind a paywall, and I haven't seen a single word about it elsewhere. However, a look at the NYGA website shows this:
- We haven't heard news of late concerning the dispute at Monticello, where the horsemen are blocking the simulcast signal over the provision in the casino law that caps VLT revenue to purses at 2013 levels at existing racinos that get a casino license. But apparently, somebody in Albany is paying attention. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, the chairman of his chamber's Racing and Wagering Committee, has introduced a bill that would require payments towards purses and breeding funds above and beyond those levels. The payments would begin once the casino achieves revenue 15% above its 2013 levels (that would trigger payments of 8% of total gaming revenues to purses; 1% to breeding), and are then based on a sliding scale with decreasing percentages based on higher revenue plateaus. The bill would also require additional payments toward the marketing of racing.
Of course, it's just a bill in committee in the Assembly, so it would be a long road to it actually becoming law. And one can be sure that the casino interests that have spent millions in lobbying and campaign contributions would rally their forces to oppose it. But it's nice to see that at least one legislator is paying attention, and it hopefully provides at least a morale boost to the horsemen at Monticello.
- Turf racing was scheduled to return to the Big A today, but the 6th race is now off the turf. Probably a relief to bettors anyway, as only two of the 14 entrants had ever run on grass.