From Saratoga Springs: Thanks, but no thanks By Steve Grandin January 22, 2014 at 4:18 am There are undoubtedly cities in New York that can benefit from a casino. Saratoga Springs, however, is not one of them. In 2013, the State of New York decided that a quick way to fill its fiscal coffers was to get a number of casinos to open, as soon as possible, in the upstate area. With the gambling industry outspending opponents by millions of dollars, a statewide vote authorized the casino option – touted on the ballot as increasing school funding, reducing taxes, etc. – by 14 points. But much to the proponents’ shock, Saratoga Springs, America’s most famous 18th century gambling mecca, voted against casinos by a nearly 3-to-2 margin. Why? Saratoga Springs residents believe the city does not need casinos, thank you, and that casinos would lead to a lowering of the standard of living in what residents believe is the premier place to live in upstate New York. A little background: Upstate New York is in terrible shape. Decades of rust-belt industries abandoning liberal New York, first for the anti-union Southern states and more recently for overseas locations, have gutted cities from Troy and Schenectady to Buffalo, and from Niagara Falls, Syracuse, and Utica to Binghamton and Elmira. Amidst this exodus from New York, people and, more importantly, developers desperately want to be in Saratoga Springs. Why? Saratoga Springs has built its reputation as America’s hometown by combining well-off Baby Boom yuppies with privileged Skidmore College students, a main street voted as the Most Walkable in the nation, architecture beyond compare, horse racing’s most famous track (more a high-class county fair than Damon Runyonesque low life), and conventions that continually draw visitors throughout the year who also come for the ambiance. Saratoga is a state of mind. The addition of casinos could do nothing but diminish it. The addition of casinos, like professional sports arenas, does not create revenue; it just redistributes it. Casino restaurants in Saratoga Springs would damage the cozy, 12-table eateries loved by both locals and visitors. Casino concerts would negatively impact the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And, most importantly, casino gambling would hurt the world-famous Saratoga Race Course, something no Saratogian wants to happen. Full-blown casinos and horse racing cannot successfully live side-by-side. Considering that the track has been the city’s lifeblood for 150 years, telling the world who we are, it’s no surprise what Saratoga supports. Down-on-their luck areas such as the Catskills, or cities desperate for a kick start, such as Rensselaer, want casinos. Having a casino might work well for them. In Saratoga, we like our lives and community as they are. So thanks, but no thanks. Steve Grandin has been a resident of Saratoga Springs for nearly 35 years. He was formerly sports editor of The Saratogian and is currently a member of the Saratoga Springs City School District’s Board of Education.