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Group wants racing considered in casino talks

Saratoga Racing says destination of casino money must be decided

— The Citizens for Saratoga Racing coalition is made up of horse owners, breeders, trainers and representatives from the business and tourism community.

Shimkus said Lake George and Albany are being considered as possible freestanding casino sites and it would be devastating if one of those were chosen.

“It would clearly have a negative impact on Saratoga raceway, which in turn could have a negative impact on harness raceway,” said Shimkus. “The location of the casinos and how revenue is shared are the two are details we ought to know before we go to polls in November.”

For casinos to be allowed by law in New York, it is required that two successive legislatures pass a change to the constitution. If that happens, there would be a referendum across the state. Last year, the legislature passed language to allow gambling. If it passes again, it would go on the ballot in November. Shimkus said the wording simply authorizes casinos. It doesn’t detail where the money will be shared or where the casinos would be located.

“We’re talking about the future of both thoroughbred and harness racing that is absolutely and positively connected to the discussion of casinos,” said Shimkus. “You can’t separate the two.”

Shimkus said the thoroughbred racing industry has a $200 million economic impact every year throughout the Capital District.

“If done wrong, allowing casinos could harm that,” he said. “If done right, casinos could help that.”

Rita Cox, who is a spokesperson at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, is also anxious for Saratoga Springs to be chosen and feels confident that it has an advantage.

“We have a nine-year proven track record,” she said. “We have a tremendous partnership with New York State as a good community partner. We’ve raised more than $500,000 for education.”

Cox also said the other advantage is the very existence of the casino.

“We can be up and operational and generating more revenue for the state than anyone else,” she said. “It is shovel ready. We would like to make certain that we are one of the seven. Everything hinges on where these locations are going to be.”

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