SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A study commissioned by a lobbyist for Saratoga Casino and Raceway and similar businesses forecasts nearly 600 new jobs and almost a million dollars in new local tax revenue each year if table games are legalized in New York.
County officials, however, have yet to weigh in on whether they support adding games like poker and blackjack to the racino’s offerings, citing unanswered questions about the effect such a move could have on the horse-racing industry. Supporters of table games say they expect a positive impact on area racing.
Discussion about expanded gambling in the state began after Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested last year the state should consider broader legalization. Legislators have been discussing the pros and cons of the move since.
If table games are approved — a process that would take nearly two years — the racino plans to spend $38 million to expand its casino floor space and build an 80,000-square-foot hotel, a 500-vehicle parking garage, 25,000 square feet of event space and 10,000 square feet of meeting rooms.
Released Tuesday, the study was conducted by New York City-based Appleseed Inc. It estimates 395 new employees would be hired in Saratoga to accompany the expansion. About 620 work at the racino now.
The report also anticipates nearly 200 other jobs created locally as a result of added tourism and a projected increase in horse industry activity.
County and town governments in Saratoga County would see an annual increase of more than $650,000 in sales and hotel taxes after the expansion, according to the report. It also calculates an indirect sales tax boost of $276,900 from new, non-racino consumer spending.
Despite those numbers, Saratoga County officials are approaching the issue cautiously.
John Collyer, Providence supervisor and chairman of the county’s Racing Committee, said the added jobs would be welcome. But he said the committee, which discussed the issue this month without taking an official position, is concerned the addition of table games could hurt racing in Saratoga. The standardbred and thoroughbred industries come first, he said.
James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association, which commissioned the study, said officials have no reason to worry. He said an expanded racino would be a stronger draw for tourists looking for evening options after a day at Saratoga Race Course.
He said legalized table games would likely accompany an increased take for video lottery terminals, as well. About 10 percent of those revenues go toward purses and breeders, he said.
The racino expects to see increased business across the board if table games are legalized. That includes the standardbred track, said Rita Cox, the Saratoga facility’s senior vice president of marketing.
Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he expects county government will adopt a position and make it known to legislators if and when the issue comes up for a vote by the Legislature.
Allowing table games requires an amendment to the state Constitution. Two consecutively elected legislatures would need to approve the change before it could go to voters in a referendum, meaning the earliest it could be approved is November of 2013.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s proposed expansion would then take place in 2014 and 2015.
The New York Gaming Association was formed by the Saratoga Casino and Raceway and its eight counterpart racinos across the state. The Association has lobbied Albany politicians to legalize table games, arguing tourists who seek such entertainment are taking their money out of state or to casinos on Native American reservations in New York.
If table games are legalized, the state’s racetrack casinos plan a combined $1.8 billion in new construction, according to the study by Appleseed. That investment would have a net economic impact of $3.3 billion statewide, the study states.