Now that a casino is coming to the Capital District, where shall it be located? The present favorite appears to be the Saratoga racino, but I wouldn’t put it there if it were up to me. Here are the siting criteria I’d employ:
1. It should be as close as possible to major population centers of the area, but not too close, and located a little bit out of the way, so that people don’t usually pass it on their way to and from work, shopping and other regular errands. It should have plenty of on-site parking. Look to the Casino de Montreal for an appropriate location in an urban area.
2. It should be accessible by public transit, both to limit its environmental and traffic generating impact, and so that the service jobs it provides will be accessible to the urban residents who need them and who may not own their own cars.
3. It should be located in an area with as much existing infrastructure as possible, and it should not be built in an undeveloped area where it will gobble up open space.
4. It should be located in an area where it is wanted by the local population and where it will not adversely impact existing local business.
I propose the Port of Rensselaer, which meets all the above criteria. Rensselaer County, unlike Saratoga and Albany counties, voted for Proposal 1, indicating it would welcome a casino. Rensselaer is centrally located, near Amtrak and Megabus, and is served by CDTA. It can use the increased property tax revenues a casino would bring, and the Port location would impact few local residents and businesses, Its central location and existing road structure would minimize the traffic and environmental impacts caused by travel to the casino. Shuttles between the rail station and the casino could help make it an attractive destination for gamblers from the New York City area, and existing CDTA routes could be slightly modified to make casino jobs accessible to Albany, Troy and Rensselaer residents who rely on public transit. If the City or County owns a parcel in the port area that could be developed and placed back on the tax rolls, so much the better.
The existing racino in Saratoga does have the basic infrastructure in place and, as an existing gambling venue, is less likely to attract local opposition, especially given the area’s historical acceptance of all sorts of gambling. However, taking the path of least resistance would forgo a tremendous opportunity to provide jobs where the people who need them most, and where potential customers from the largest population center in the State, could actually get to them, to give a struggling city a chance to get back on its feet, and to minimize the environmental impact of a venue to which many people will travel by automobile.