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Where casinos will go is out of taxpayers hands

ALBANY -- A day after the state wide referendum to allow resort style casinos passed the talk of where they will go started to heat up.

Officials at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway already said they will move forward with plans to attract a Vegas style casino to the Spa City. Meantime, elected officials in Columbia County held an early morning rally to say they want a casino to help boost their local economy.

Despite the fact just three of the eight eligible counties in the Capital Region voted in favor of casinos the measure will still move forward. And despite the fact a majority of taxpayers in the region voted down the referendum that was the last time they would have a direct say on the matter.

According to the casino law, passed by the legislature earlier this year, once approved the New York State Gaming Commission will appoint a five member panel to help place the casinos. Part of their decision will be based on "public interest", however, what is considered public interest has yet to be defined, said a spokesman for the Commission.

What is clear is the state law does not allow for a local referendum vote by taxpayers in a city where a casino is chosen to go.

Once appointed the casino siting commission will send out Requests For Proposals, or RFPs, to interested groups wanting to bring casinos to the state. The Commission will then make a determination based on several criteria including economic activity and business development, local impact and public interest, number of jobs created and timeline of construction.

City of Saratoga Mayor Elect, Joanne Yepsen, said Wednesday she is not opposed to the Saratoga Raceway's push for a full blown casino rather she wants to make sure her city and taxpayers who voted against the measure are protected.

"They are concerned about the balance," Yepsen said. "No one wants to become another Atlantic City."

Since the casino law does not take affect until January 2014, the siting committee can not be put in place before that date. Once they are formed they will have 90 days to send out RFPs.

The referendum passed by taxpayers allows for up to seven casinos in the state, four upstate in the next few years, and as many as two in New York City in seven years.
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