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Group wants racing considered in casino talks

Saratoga Racing says destination of casino money must be decided

— While Saratoga Springs leaders are anxious to see Saratoga Casino and Raceway chosen as one of seven permanent casino sites that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing, their main concern is protecting the horse racing industry and the revenue it brings in to the state.

To that end, a coalition, Citizens for Saratoga Racing, has been formed and is focused on encouraging state officials to guarantee that before voters are asked to consider approving casino gambling in New York state, they will pass legislation that will govern the implementation of this change.

Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, who is on the coalition, said he is very concerned for the future of thoroughbred and harness racing and said those industries should be protected before casino gambling is considered in November.

“We believe the legislature and governor should approve the enabling legislation that governs how a casino policy would be implemented because there are a lot of details that are important for voters to know,” Shimkus said.

The coalition is advocating for four points: the locations of full-scale casinos should be limited to approved VLT and racing locations; the cities and counties approved to host casinos should be provided host benefit payments; monies designated for race tracks must be fixed at amounts appropriated in 2012; and monies designated for VLT at Saratoga must be fixed at 2012 levels.

The Saratoga racecourse is supported in part by the VLT funds by the Aqueduct Racino and the Saratoga Racino VLT supports harness racing in Saratoga. Shimkus said around $100 million is invested every year into the harness racing track, purses, capital improvement and supported breeding programs.

“It is a very complicated issue,” said Shimkus. “The most important detail is that with the money that would come in, where does the money go?”

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