Will Saratoga Neighbor Add More Gaming Machines?

Not only will Saratoga Gaming and Raceway not close down its video lottery terminal parlor in August to accommodate the New York Racing Association, but there is some talk of the NYRA neighbor adding up to 700 VLTs, a state official said.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who represents Saratoga Springs, said earlier in the week of July 5 the harness track could add between 600 and 700 VLTs at its gaming parlor that opened earlier this year. Bruno's comments came as an appeals court in New York ruled a provision of the state's VLT law that pertains to revenue-sharing for purses and breed development funds is unconstitutional.

State legislative staffers already have met behind closed doors to determine how, and when, to change the law to accommodate the court's ruling. The Saratoga harness facility now has 1,300 VLTs, which the past three weeks have been averaging $180 per machine per day in revenue.

Jamie Hartman, general manager of the track's VLT operation, said he knew nothing about Bruno's comments.

"We haven't come out formally and said we're going to do anything,'' he said.

When asked about an expansion at some point, he said: "We're certainly not ruling it out." But he declined to say if anything specific is in the works.

Hartman said any expansion in the number of machines would require adding on to the new 55,000-square-foot VLT parlor. "We're maxed out on our existing space," he said.

Hartman also closed the door on an effort by NYRA to get the VLTs turned off during live Thoroughbred racing at Saratoga. The Blood-Horse reported in June how Saratoga Gaming and Raceway would beef up its marketing during NYRA's summertime meet to draw more bettors to its new VLT parlor.

NYRA has insisted Bruno and others said there would be no VLT gambling during live racing as a way to insulate the NYRA track from losing gambling dollars to the racino located just down the street. But officials have denied that, and said no such promises were made.

Hartman said he has been reading in news outlets that NYRA has written to the track with a request to halt the VLTs, but Hartman said no such request has been made. And even if it were, he said: "It seems to me a foolish request."

Hartman said it would be "foolhardy to close during that time or at any time. It would be damaging to the facility, damaging to the community, and damaging to the funds going to education."

Sixty-one percent of the VLT revenue goes to state public education programs. The VLT facility is also concerned about the inconvenience that could be created for its customers should it close the parlor six hours a day for 35 days.