Photo credit: Saratogian.com

Photo credit: Saratogian.com

With all the discourse and opinions that float around social media, why do I feel that no one seems to be talking about the proposed casino that will be built virtually in our backyards? In a town full of young families (and with them, outspoken young parents), I am really surprised that I have not seen or heard a lot of chatter about this HUGE thing that will almost certainly change the look and feel of our city forever. I mean, being one myself, I know that young parents are often the first people to cry “not in my backyard!”, especially when it comes to the future of their children. So, what do you have to say about it?

This is what I understand about the potential casino, from what I’ve read:

As hopefully most of you know, there is a public referendum to vote on whether or not to allow for 7 casinos to be built in the state of New York. If this happens, it is almost certain one will be built in the Capital Region, with Saratoga being the most obvious choice at this point. The owners of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway (i.e. “the Racino”) have proposed a $30 million expansion to the current complex, including a 120 room hotel. They said they plan to break ground regardless of whether they get “table gaming”. In my opinion, it seems that this is just their way of fattening the pig for the slaughter. They know that if they build it, table gaming will come.

Now, the gaming lobbyists and Saratoga Casino and Raceway owners promise us economic growth and new jobs, but I haven’t seen much discussion about the downside of bringing in “Las Vegas style gambling” into Saratoga, other than in this Saratogian article from early in August, which mostly describes how a new casino might be detrimental to Saratoga’s thoroughbred racing industry. What I haven’t seen a lot of is how this will impact us, the people living in Saratoga year-round.

I’m not blind. As a small business owner, I know that my business is largely dependent on tourism, a lot of which comes from track- goers. However, I didn’t choose to raise my family in Saratoga because of the busy summer tourist season. I chose Saratoga because it has everything going for it right now: an historic and beautiful small city that is pedestrian- friendly, the home of a well- respected liberal arts college and a SUNY school, which help to ensure a certain amount of youth, vitality, and culture in our community, and growing, white- collar industry (for example, Palio, Fingerpaint, and Global Foundries), that will keep and bring young people here, instead of causing more of the “brain drain” that much of upstate New York faces (in many areas, communities are literally “dying out” because once older generations die, there are few people left to help the community prosper or continue)… in other words, we do not NEED a casino to “save” our city. In my opinion, a casino would change Saratoga forever, and probably not in a good way. Will Saratoga still be home to one of America’s Greatest Main Streets when there’s a casino at the end of it? What “side-effects” will we as a community see, once more gambling is brought into town?

This is my first attempt to get more of us talking, but I plan to keep the dialogue running. It seems that there just hasn’t been a lot said about this, in both the media or by us… and I think that the worst thing we can do is to be apathetic.

Here are some recent articles on the development until next time:

Race for Survival at Saratoga

Saratoga Casino and Raceway plan major expansion with or without full-scale gaming

Saratoga Casino to Expand

And, here is the link to a Facebook group that I just discovered today:

Saratogians Against More Gambling in Our Town

Also, here is the proposed expansion to the current Racino. Although I am not on board with their “end-game”, I will say that I am pleased that it isn’t a towering Foxwoods-type design and respects our city’s architecture.

Photo credit: saratogacasino.com

Photo credit: saratogacasino.com

-Chelsea