Rendering of Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

Rendering of Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

Courtesy of Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Spa Raceway Casino Plans $30M Expansion

The upstate New York track says project not tied to license for full casino.

A New York racetrack hoping to be considered for a full-scale casino announced a $30 million development project that will include a hotel, event center, and upscale restaurant.

The Saratoga Casino & Raceway announcement May 28 came as New York officials are negotiating a measure to permit up to seven commercial casinos on non-Indian lands, and some racetrack gaming operators, including Saratoga, are trying to get into the mix for the Class III gambling if voters approve a statewide referendum this fall.

Saratoga Casino & Raceway, a harness track with video lottery terminals, announced a similar plan more than a year ago, but that was pegged to the facility getting one of the Class III franchises. Officials May 28 said the expansion will occur whether or not it gets one of the seven licenses officials are eyeing for full-scale casinos that include table games and slot machines.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said potential job creation, franchise fee payments to the state, a proven track record of casino operations, and the ability to create "destination-style" gambling facilities are among the key attributes he believes will be necessary for developers to win a casino franchise if the measure passes this year. He has been cool to the idea of racetrack VLT facilities getting the full-blown casino rights, but that has not stopped some, led by Saratoga, to make the push.

In its announcement, Saratoga Casino & Raceway said the expansion will include a 120-room hotel complete with a spa, 24,000-square-foot multi-purpose event center, and restaurant. Officials described it as the most expensive expansion since the facility opened nine years ago, during which it has hosted more than 19 million visitors. Track executives said they envision the facility will attract more visitors from the Northeast.

"Since opening in 2004, we have seen tremendous growth and are very proud to have generated in excess of $111.3 million for our horsemen and $601.2 million for education in New York State," Jamie Hartman, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Saratoga Casino & Raceway, said in a written statement. "Our proven track record of growth, job creation, and revenue generation for all our stakeholders is one we look forward to improving upon with this plan."

Officials said the expansion will add 260 jobs to the current 600 employees on the payroll. They estimated the facility will increase revenue-sharing payments to purses and breeding programs by $1.7 million annually.

"The $1.2 billion in revenue already generated by Saratoga Casino & Raceway should be considered to be the beginning of what can be accomplished by this world-class team," Hartman said. "We believe that we're at the beginning of a transformation that will ensure significant long-term economic benefit for New York State and our horsemen as well as for our community and our employees."

Last year the company proposed a $38 million expansion, including a hotel, but only if it was awarded a Class III gaming license. That caveat has been lifted.

The new plan calls for a smaller investment in 2012, but Rita Cox, senior vice president of marketing, said the new plan no longer calls for a parking garage as proposed in last year's development package.