By Justin Mason
SARATOGA SPRINGS — City officials plan to take a firm position on the prospects of a casino locating in Saratoga Springs.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen is expected to offer a resolution at the council meeting this evening asking for more local input in the state’s process of siting a casino in Saratoga Springs before such a resort is given any support from the City Council. She told the commissioners Monday that the wording of the resolution is being tweaked and she remains confident she’ll get a unanimous vote, much like a similar measure did in December 2012.
“We’ve been listing for months and months and months,” Yepsen said during the council’s agenda meeting. “I think it’s time to put something forward.”
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco also planned to offer a resolution, though his would definitively oppose the development of a casino in Saratoga Springs. Drafted by the anti-casino group Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion, the resolution declares the council has a “vigorous opposition” to the city hosting one of the four live table gaming facilities approved by voters.
Scirocco said Yepsen’s resolution mirrors much of his own. He said it’s important for the city to send a message to the state based on the public input city officials have been receiving.
“I think [the resolution will] be a clear message saying, ‘Hey listen, you need to come and talk to us if in fact you want to do anything here at all,’?” he said during the agenda meeting.
Finance Commissioner Michelle Madigan said the draft resolution seems reasonable. She said it echoes some of the sentiment of a letter she sent to the state Gaming Commission late last month voicing her concerns and opposition she’s heard from constituents.
“This opposition comes in emails regularly,” she said. “Every five minutes I would say I’m receive an email in opposition to the siting of a destination resort casino here.”
The council’s regular meeting this evening was moved to the city’s Music Hall in anticipation of the crowds that are expected to attend. The casino gambling issue has divided the city, with vocal opponents and proponents strongly arguing their case during the public comment period of council meetings.
The resolution will be posed as the gaming commission inches closer to releasing a request for applications for the casino licenses. State officials have pledged the request will be issued sometime this month, but will not pinpoint an exact date.
Part of the process is waiting on the confirmation of Mark Gearan, the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, as the next gaming commissioner. The state Senate is expected to take up the matter in Albany today.
Gearan is responsible for officially appointing the five-member Resort Gaming Facility Location Board, which will release the request for applications and ultimately decide which applications to accept. Three of the five members of the board have already been picked.
Part of the eligibility process for gaming licenses involves local support, according to state legislation. As a condition of filing, each applicant must illustrate to the board’s satisfaction that local support has been demonstrated before an application is even considered.
There’s also a chance the board or commission decides to completely bypass placing a casino in the Capital Region.