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Saratoga Springs casino forum leaves many questions unanswered

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Updated: 12/17/2013 8:36 am

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Saratoga Springs City Center was filled with thousands of people looking for answers to what may happen to their city if the Saratoga Casino and Raceway is allowed to expand but many questions were left unanswered.

New York State has not set requirements for companies interested in opening or expanding a card-and-dice casino in the state.

Most people at the forum want the city to remain a unique, historic family-friendly community.

Saratoga Springs Mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen said the people have spoken.

“We are not in favor of Vegas-style gambling,” she said. “And the voters of this district made that very clear on November 5.”

The future is still uncertain however.

“We have a lot of vague information,” she continued.

Although Saratoga Springs has not been selected as one of seven sites across New York State for card-and-dice casinos, Yepsen’s mission was echoed by many who came out Monday night.

Yepsen said, “We need to preserve all those unique features. We also need to preserve jobs.”

The gambling and drinking that goes along with a casino has many residents concerned about any type of expansion.

“What’s going to happen 365 days out of the year,” resident Dil Sheji wondered.

Sheji has lived near the casino for 22 years. He fears for his daughters when the city becomes packed during track season.

“You can’t leave them outside, you can’t let them ride a bike, you can’t let them play ball, you can’t be there,” he said. “It’s a beautiful city. I feel that Saratoga does not need it.”

Sheji said drunken people passing out on his lawn are common. He thinks that climate will only grow with expansion of the casino.

Dan Hogan is co-chair of Destination Saratoga. He thinks the expansion will be positive.

“I would think if anything, it’s going to enhance the track and downtown,” he said.

He would prefer one caveat. He hopes the expansion would not be Las Vegas-style, but built to fit the current culture and history of Saratoga Springs.

“I would like to see an expansion of Saratoga Casino and Raceway that’s more fitting with the atmosphere of Saratoga,” he said.

The New York Gaming Commission will start accepting applications for possible casinos in early 2014. One of the requirements is the casino being embraced by the community.

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