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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saratoga Harness Owners Look to Double the Fun

 - I have a couple of posts about last weekend's racing up at the TimeformUS blog, here and here.

 - Saratoga Casino & Raceway has released the details of their proposed casino in East Greenbush.

Yes, it will have "spectacular views of the Capital District," as well as the usual entertainment, retail, and lodging options.  But no water park, which I know must be a disappointment.  It contains the expected promises of jobs and economic benefits, both to the state at large and the local community. And the usual BS about what they're going to do to address problem gambling, as if they really care.  "We believe in a moral, social, and business responsibility to promote responsible gaming by our employees and patrons."  Right.  As I've said before, any facility that provides easy access to gambling at 10:00 on weekday mornings is not promoting responsible gaming.  Whatever.

No less than three times in the document, we are told that the owners have "decades of gaming experience."  Well, maybe I'm being too picky here. But the racino at the Saratoga harness track opened in 2004.  Now I suppose that, technically, horse racing is considered to be "gaming." However, I think that we all know what the term generally refers to. That's why "racing" and "casino" are always separate links on websites.  In the FAQ section on the Saratoga harness site, the answer to the question "Can I wager on horse racing from the gaming floor?" is no.  Again, perhaps I'm being too cynical in this case; but the point is that the claim is rather disingenuous, and gives the impression that the owners have decades of experience running the kind of facility that they are proposing to build. Which they don't.

In a surprising development, the folks at the Saratoga harness track will be submitting plans for a second casino; this one further downstate, in Newburgh.  Yeah, when we were told that James Featherstonhaugh was leaving his position at NYGA to pursue a casino, we didn't figure he'd be this busy!  They will submit their proposal to the Newburgh Town Board this evening.  Whether they really intend to bid for two casinos, or are just trying to ensure that they get at least one, remains to be seen.  You may be relieved to know that a spokesperson said "there are no plans to pursue any other licenses in New York."

Newburgh is in Orange County, which is a contentious subject.  Folks in the Catskills region had been assuming that the two licenses intended for the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region would both be sited there.  However, Orange County, with its proximity to New York City, is a prime location which is attracting much interest; including from Caesars World.  Potential developers further north fear that casinos there would doom their prospects; and the owners of the Empire Casino at Yonkers are not too thrilled either. There is sentiment in the state legislature against the idea too.
 But State Senator John J. Bonacic, a Republican who represents the Catskills, said the casino legislation was meant to create jobs and economic activity at the north end of the region, not in more prosperous Orange County.  [NYT]
Empire Resorts, the owner of Monticello Raceway that is hoping to build that casino at the Concord, argues that an Orange County casino, in addition to damaging their business, would be dilutive overall to the state's revenue.  “It won’t add to state revenues like a casino in Sullivan or Ulster counties."  But Orange County hopefuls will counter with predictions of their own.  A senior VP at Cordish which is proposing to build near Woodbury (the site of the Caesars proposal), said that a Catskills casino would be "recipe for disaster."  Of course, those in Sullivan County who have, for years/decades now, been hoping for a casino to revive their economy (for whatever that may ultimately be worth) might disagree with that assessment.


kyle said...

I've appreciated your writing on this subject. And while plans of the Saratoga Racino group continue to be a story, E23 is by far the more interesting, multi-faceted, and to many like me more troubling development. Capital OTB's involvement alone makes for a huge story. Besides the propriety and questionable legality of that, we have an organization that can't operate in the red, wasn't able to run an online wagering platform, and continues to put tens of thousands of dollars into the hands of certain "handicappers" who have never demonstrated any ability to handle the assignment. A simple accounting of that folly would be very interesting This same entity is now trying to sell its casino plan with the most incredible promises of economic benefit. And they're using their tv station to propagandize. On Easter Sunday, as NY horseplayers languished in a prison COTB President John Signor can take more than a little credit for seeing to its completion, this public benefit corp. ran on a loop the fairy tale that is the presentation it is making to local communities. Beyond Capital's central role we have the Gillebrand connection - the money supposedly being offered for the land seems way beyond market value. Finally we have the location - right off an exit ( a set-up that seems sure to keep as little commerce as possible from escaping from this economic black hole as possible ) that as it currently exists can barely handle the on and off traffic it now gets, dumping into surface streets that would be overwhelmed by any significant increase in use. Finally, the ridiculous plan itself inclusive of the water park. Gamblers are gonna use the slide ? Their kids? Yeah, the family thing works good in conjunction with casino gambling, just ask Vegas. Anyway, thanks for the space to rant. Hope we'll see more from you about E23.

kyle said...

One edit: Should read COTB has shown an inability to operate in the black. I believe as last reported their operating loss was greater than $800k.

Unknown said...

Thanks kyle. I've read a bit about the dubious legality of COTB's participation, need to bone up on the topic and will definitely be writing more on the E23 proposal. However, I'm sticking to my belief that it's already in the bag for Jimmy Feathers and Saratoga Casino & Raceway.