aratoga Casino Hotel has announced plans for a major capital improvement project investing USD 8 million in upgrades into the casino. Expected to be completed by the end of 2019, the project will add new amenities and improved guest experience to the casino floor. The announcement follows the opening of a new outdoor gaming terrace earlier this month.
The casino now aims to complete a more extensive project that will add significant new amenities to the casino floor. The renovations is underway and will add an all-new sports bar on the gaming floor, a new VIP lounge, upgraded high-limit slot area, self-service beverage stations, as well as new carpet, finishes, lighting fixtures, upgraded sound system, and 50 multimedia screens throughout the casino. Work will be completed in segments to allow for minimal disruption.
“With the exception of our hotel, these renovations will undoubtedly be the most transformational project in our property’s history,” said Alex Tucker, General Manager of Saratoga Casino Hotel. “We’re confident that when everything is in place, our guests will recognize the significant strides and improvements we’re making to enhance their visits to Saratoga Casino Hotel.”
An integral component of the project will be the new sports bar. Located close to the main entrance, the bar will be elevated above the casino floor and will offer seating for 75 guests. It will feature two-tiers of 360-degree multimedia screens, as well as taps for over 20 craft and domestic beers and an a la carte menu.
An additional amenity will be the construction of a brand new VIP lounge. Select players will have access to a lounge where they can enjoy complimentary drinks and food. The room will be fully equipped with private seating areas, plush couches, a TV and gas fireplace. Nearby, a fully revamped high-limit slot area will be constructed. Both the sports bar and VIP lounge are anticipated to be complete by this fall.
The entirety of the casino floor, which spans over 40,000 square feet, will be re-carpeted and feature new finishes and distinct lighting fixtures throughout. Once completed, the new carpet, finishes and lighting will more closely align with the modern architecture and design featured in the casino’s hotel. The new carpet was designed and curated by interior design firm Floss Barber Inc. of Philadelphia, which holds an expertise in gaming and hospitality properties.
“A project of this magnitude would not be possible without the collaboration and guidance of our governing agencies,” said Tucker. “We applaud both OGS (Office of General Services) and the New York State Gaming Commission for their commitment and partnerships throughout this entire planning process.” A total of 125 construction jobs and an estimated 16,000 man hours will be required to complete all stages of the work.
Furthermore, Tucker said Saratoga Casino and Hotel continues to lobby for the right to offer sports betting, The Daily Gazette reported. “Presently we’re not included but obviously we think we’re a natural,” he said. “The sports bar could easily be adapted to accommodate sports wagering and frankly, we’ve been wagering on sports here for about 80 years, in the harness racing. So we think it would just be a natural. We’re hoping to get included at some point, but right now, we’re not.”
Even without sports betting, the sports bar will be an important addition to the casino, he said, with seating for 75 people, gastropub fare and 20 beers on tap, many of them local craft products. Above it all will be 28 video screens in two 360-degree rings.
Saratoga Casino Hotel’s managers acknowledged Thursday the casino’s declining take since the opening of Rivers a 30-minute drive away and the larger MGM Springfield two hours away. Skip Carlson, vice president of external affairs at the casino, said he had feared a 40 percent drop in business but has seen a roughly 25 percent drop. The casino has not made any layoffs, Tucker said, but neither is it making as much profit or paying as much in state taxes.
Its response has been to improve itself physically — first with the construction of its hotel in 2016, then with the addition of an outdoor gambling area, now with the $8 million capital project. Total investment in the venue over 15 years is approaching $100 million, Tucker said.
Saratoga Casino Hotel was New York’s first racino, a video slot machine casino added to an existing harness horse race track. After its opening in 2004, customers gambled successively larger sums of money in nine of the next 12 fiscal years, rising from $1.1 billion in 2004-2005 to $2.42 billion in 2016-2017. Then Rivers Casino & Resort opened 18 miles away in Schenectady, in February 2017. Total dollars gambled at Saratoga Casino Hotel dropped to $1.97 billion in 2017-2018 and $1.88 billion in 2018-2019.
Carlson said the convenience factor hurts his casino — it’s easier for customers in the Albany and Schenectady areas to drive to Rivers than to Saratoga Casino Hotel. It also hurts that Rivers has more options: table games, poker games and, soon, sports betting. But no one else has Saratoga Springs, he said.
“One of the things that differentiates Saratoga Casino Hotel from its competitors is our location. And I never lose sight of this, and I thoroughly appreciate it,” Carlson said, thanking Discover Saratoga and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce for being partners in promoting the city.