Saratoga merchants anxious about casino

The city’s business community continues to view a resort casino as a potential threat.

In an informal survey, a clear majority of merchants in the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association said they opposed «a Las Vegas-style destination casino» in the city and felt it would have a negative effect on their business, according to results published this week on the DBA’s website. Fifty-four people said they were against a casino and 28 were in favor, while 43 said an expanded casino would harm their business and 28 thought it would help, according to the DBA. The DBA’s board took no position on casinos.

Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker on Tuesday delivered a resolution to the City Council in which the center’s board voted unanimously to oppose a «multipurpose event center» planned for Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The casino’s owners are applying for one of the state’s up to four casino licenses. They want to build a hotel and 24,000-square-foot, 2,000-seat event center this spring as New York begins selecting the sites for full-scale gambling.

The city center holds conferences and conventions on Broadway and is concerned about competing against an operation fueled by casino profits, Baker said. He said the city center «strongly opposes» the construction of a casino multipurpose event center, unless the structure «is modified and the negative impacts can be mitigated by operational arrangements and binding agreements.»

Colin Klepetar, co-founder of Saratogians Against Vegas-Style Expansion said downtown business owners are concerned about the impact of a casino resort, noting, «In order for casinos to be successful, they need to keep people on site.»

Morgan Hook, spokesperson for Destination Saratoga, which supports expanding the casino with table games, stated: «We know a full casino is coming to the Capital Region, and the question now is whether it’s better for downtown Saratoga businesses to have that casino here or somewhere else nearby,» Hook said. «Alternatively, the casino could be built in a location that competes with Saratoga, which would pull hundreds of thousands of visitors away from downtown.»

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