SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY -- The Victorian ambiance of this charming little Upstate New York city is known far and wide in conjunction with various entertainment venues and the Saratoga Race Course thoroughbred horse racing season. A short hop away, however, a combination gambling venue is beginning to give it a run for its tourist dollar money.
Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, a complex containing a harness racing track as well as a video gambling casino, is marking its third anniversary with an expansion.
The complex, the first video gaming facility in New York State, is adding room for 431 more video machines, which will bring the total to 1,700 by spring. The new gaming floor area also will include a "high limit" area woth games played in denominations up to $25.
A new restaurant, the Garden Buffet, will seat about 300, a complement to Fortunes, the multi-tiered upscale dining area that reopened in the summer of 2005. (See my review of Fortunes.)
Vapor, a nightclub that is part of the expansion, has been designed to host live performances, DJs and special events. It will feature two floors of seating and two bars.
Although the harness track opened in 1941, it had been operating for most years in the shadow of the iconic thoroughbred track until video gaming was approved by the state. Prior to its addition in 2004, the highest total purses were $3.1 million dollars, according to track officials Last year that rose to $12 million, and the handle increased last year to a record $64 million.
"On the 2006 Breeder's Cup day alone racing handle was a record $905,000," said John Matarazzo, director of racing operations. He projects that in 2007 the purses will exceed $13 million dollars. In 2007 there will be 170 live racing days and simulcasting will increase to seven days a week. Live racing resumes on February 2 at 7:00pm.
Details: The complex is located on Crescent Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Gaming hours are 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Simulcast races are shown daily. Live harness races begin at 7 p.m., with occasional 12:45 p.m. matinees at 12:45. The racing schedule is on the Web site.
ON THE WEB
• Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)
• Saratoga Race Course
• National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame
• Children's Museum
• Grant Cottage State Historical Site
• National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame
• Saratoga Automobile Museum
• NYS Military Museum
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