Tuesday marked the first city council meeting for newly elected Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen. As Time Warner Cable News Reporter Matt Hunter explains, the evening's discussion was dominated by a topic that didn't even appear on the agenda.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – No, nothing about casinos appeared on Tuesday's Saratoga Springs City Council agenda, but the Spa City's elected leaders heard dozens of arguments for and against local casino expansion anyway.
"It's going to upset the quality of life and fragile economics of our city,” said Charlie Samuels, a member of the Group Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion (SAVE).
"If the casino goes somewhere else to a competing venue in the Capital Region, those jobs will be definitely be put at risk," said Gordon Boyd, a member of the pro-casino group Destination Saratoga.
The issue is likely the largest one of the desk of new mayor Joanne Yepsen, one of the many who believes the city could do without expanded casino gambling.
"If there was no more casino expansion in Saratoga Springs that we would be fine," Yepsen said prior to Tuesday’s meeting, her first as Mayor.
The eight county Capital Region will be awarded one of the state's first four casinos with Las Vegas-style table games. Executives at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which already features 1,800 video slot machines, hope to be awarded the eventual bid.
"We've been here for ten years now, we just really believe we're the best place to do it in the Capital District," Senior Vice President of Marketing Rita Cox said.
Neither the public or council will get a vote when it comes to bringing a casino to the city. That decision will rest solely in the hands of the state's yet-to-be-appointed selection committee.
Local support, or a lack thereof, is expected to factor in the decision.
"We're at the mercy of New York State and we need to have some influence and protection for our city," Yepsen said.
Details about the selection timeline and process are still unclear but many on both sides have already firmly made up their minds.
"The community deserves an open-minded approach," Boyd said.
"Please keep a casino far from us,” Saratoga Springs Resident Robert Davis said. “Don't play Russian Roulette with our city."