A group of upstate New York arts and entertainment venues has asked the state for help protecting their ability to attract acts and audiences if voters approve a plan for four new casinos.
Marcia White, executive director of the not-for-profit Saratoga Performing Arts Center, said Tuesday the Upstate NY Arts and Entertainment Venues isn’t opposing casinos, but are concerned deep-pocketed gambling facilities could outbid them for entertainers who would then be off the local market because of exclusivity contracts.
“If they book Bruce Springsteen, we wouldn’t have that opportunity for several months or up to a year,” said White, whose Saratoga Springs venue can hold an audience of 25,000.
The coalition’s other theaters are Proctors in Schenectady, The Clemens Center in Elmira, the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, the Landmark Theater in Syracuse, the Palace Theater and Times Union Center in Albany, the Saratoga City Center, the State Theatre in Ithaca, Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, and the Stanley Center for the Arts in Utica.
White said they collectively account for budgets of almost $100 million, employ more than 600 people and are major educational and cultural resources in their communities.
In addition to some agreement on exclusivity, the group is also asking for a 1,000-seat limit on casino theaters and limits on their future expansion.
“This isn’t an anti-casino or anti-gambling thing,” she said. “It’s about keeping our communities vibrant.”
Saratoga Springs, known for its summer thoroughbred racing season, also has a harness racing track with slot machines that could become home to a casino.
Jeff Gural, the owner of the Tioga Downs “racino” in the Southern Tier, said he will bid for one of the casino sites if they are approved in a Nov. 5 referendum.
He said shows, including outdoor acts that draw 2,000 to 4,000 people, have been staged for six years at the track.
He dismissed the coalition’s concerns.
“There has been plenty of talent to go around and no one in this neck of the woods has said a word to me,” Gural said Monday.
The state Gaming Commission said Tuesday it is committed to protecting the local theaters and work with it on rules requiring any new casinos to form partnerships with them.