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Saratoga Casino and Raceway plans $30 Million Expansion

SARATOGA SPRINGS -  The Saratoga Casino and Raceway is planning a 30-million dollar expansion.  Casino operators unveiled a plan on Tuesday which calls for a new 120-room hotel, spa, indoor pool, 24,000 square-foot event center and a fine dining restaurant.  The investment is coming at a time when state lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment that would expand full casino gambling with table games.  Currently, the Saratoga Raceway and Casino offers harness track betting, video slot machines and electronic table games.

It's no secret that this VTL operation was the first in the state to get off the ground and ever since then, it's been continuing to exceed all expectations,” Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson said at a press conference announcing the expansion.  Since the VTL’s were put in in 2004, the Raceway and Casino has generated $1.5 billion.  50% of that, casino operators say has gone to education, 22% to racetrack operation, 10% to the lottery, 9% to agribusiness, 8% to marketing and 1% to the capital improvement fund.    

The current expansion project is expected to create at least 260 new jobs at an average salary of $34,000/per year.  One of the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway says while this expansion will go through whether the facility is chosen for table-games or not, he is hoping it’s just a start, “It's a plan that is expandable if circumstances warrant itI can tell you that if there are going to be casinos located upstate in a region where we are, we will actively bid on them,” James Featherstonhaugh tells CBS6. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he wants to allow seven casinos in New York State, the first three to be located upstate.  A constitutional amendment would need to be approved by voters in order for the plan to move forward.  That vote may be included on the November ballot. 

Over the past few weeks, the state has reached deals with two out of three Indian Tribes that it has been disputing with over money.  Two weeks ago, the Oneida Tribe stuck a deal which guarantees the Oneidas exclusive territory for their casino in exchange for revenue payments, that removed 10 counties from consideration.  Last week, the state reached a deal with the Mohawk Tribe which gave the state $30 million in back taxes and gave the Mohawks exclusive casino rights to areas in the North County. That eliminated another seven counties from consideration, including the City of Lake George which had expressed interest in being considered.

The investment the Saratoga Casino and Raceway is making now, Featherstonhaugh believes will only make it more marketable when a decision day comes.  You may have heard the governor's recent press conference about casinos, in terms of capital acts or investment, facilities such as ourselves who are already in business would be given credit for the capital expenditures they have already made so that makes us comfortable in going ahead and doing this,” Hartman says.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway plans to break ground on its expansion in January in 2014, it’s hoping to be complete by spring of 2015.