Gaming Hours for VLTs in Saratoga Gaming Considered for Extension

Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, the busiest tourist attraction in the region, could stay open for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week if one of Governor David Paterson's many budget proposals become law.

Paterson wants to remove restrictions on how long video lottery terminals or VLT's can operate on a daily basis in the state-one of the two ideas that rely on more gaming revenue to help solve a $7.4 billion budget deficit.

The other proposal would relax restrictions on where Quick Draw lottery machines can be placed, opening the way to thousands of bars, store and other business retailers. Quick Draw is currently being offered in about 3,600 locations, mostly restaurants.

Permitting more locations would produce an estimated $87 million over the next two fiscal years. VLT's, which bears a lot of similarities to slot machines, are a bigger source of gaming revenues for the state than Quick Draw. But they are limited to operating no more than sixteen hours a day and must close down by 2:00 a.m.

New York collected $100.2 million from the VLT's in Saratoga during the first three quarters of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. That was a 0.9% drop from the same period a year earlier. VLT's in New York's eight casinos and gambling establishments produced $750.6 million during the current fiscal year, a 6% improvement over the previous year.

Governor Paterson wants the state Lottery Division to set new gaming hours for VLT's based on player demand. The state Budget Division estimates that the proposal would produce $90 million in additional gaming revenue over the next two fiscal years. Saratoga Gaming and Raceway opens everyday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

The establishment has 1,700 VLT's, two restaurants, harness horse racing and the Vapor nightclub. There were two million visitors in 2008, making it the busiest tourist attraction in the area, according to the Business Review list.

The vice president of sales and marketing, Rita Cox, said on January 20th, 2010, that it is too early to know whether the hours for the VLT's would be extended if Gov. Paterson's proposal is passed by the legislature. Asked whether there would be enough demand for the extra machine hours, Cox said that she thinks that there are probably some players on some night during certain times of the year.

But Joe Dalton, the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, doubts that there would some interest from the core group of gamers who play there. Dalton said that you have got to examine the usual group of people going to a racino. They say that the majority of the population is white female players over the age of sixty.

Dalton said that to his knowledge, majority of these players are already in bed by 10:00 p.m. and it is unlikely that they will get up and play some slot machines. Dalton added that instead of changing the rules and regulations governing the existing VLT's, New York must first solve a bigger problem: getting Video Lottery Terminals placed at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.