Saratoga Casino table games

Work starts on $34 million Saratoga Casino and Raceway hotel
January 16, 2016 – 01:44 pm
The proposed expansion of

Ground was broken today on a $34 million hotel at Saratoga Casino and Raceway that officials say will position the video slot machine parlor and harness race track to compete with new, full-fledged casinos in upstate New York, including one about 25 miles south in Schenectady.

"The hotel will be a four-star hotel and will compete favorably with anything else in the area, " said James Featherstonhaugh, corporate secretary at the casino and raceway. "We think that with the addition of electronic table games it's nearly the final piece in making us a complete destination casino."

Courtesy of Saratoga Casino and Raceway

The 108-room hotel, with an indoor pool, fitness center, lobby bar, meeting rooms and a fine-dining restaurant, will open by summer 2016.

Dan Gerrity, president of Saratoga Casino and Raceway, called it a "transformational project" that will provide guests with an option they've requested for many years.

The harness race track was expanded in 2004 to include video lottery terminals similar to slot machines. The racino, as it's called, has more than 1, 700 machines today and drew 2 million visitors last year, making it the most popular tourist attraction in the Capital Region, according to the Albany Business Review.

The state Gaming Commission recently approved electronic table games at racinos, and several have already been installed in Saratoga, replacing those that mimic slot machines. More are coming, Featherstonhaugh said.

"We have roulette, " he said. "The only difference is instead of having three live people standing around the table you have a virtual roulette dealer, but the game is identical."

The new roulette games are popular, performing at about two times the floor average in terms of the amount wagered, he said.

The owners wanted to convert the racino into a full-scale casino with poker and other live table games, but dropped their plans last year in the face of strong community opposition. They then pursued a site in East Greenbush in Rensselaer County, but also encountered stiff resistance.

A state panel ultimately recommended Schenectady get the only license in the region. Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor is expected to open in two years if it is licensed this summer.

The Schenectady casino is estimated to cut 30 to 54 percent of the business at the Saratoga racino. Nevertheless, Featherstonhaugh said the racino will be a strong competitor because Saratoga is already a popular destination. Schenectady doesn't have the same draw.

The new Saratoga hotel will take a year to build and create 400 to 500 temporary union construction jobs. When it opens, it will create 200 to 300 permanent jobs, on top of the 400 full-time and 200 part-timers at the racino.

The hotel will be built by a joint venture of Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction Management and Tishman Construction, an AECOM company. JCJ Architecture in New York City is the designer, the same firm involved with the casino's original gaming floor and a 2007 expansion that included the Garden Buffet and Vapor nightclub.

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