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Schenectady Casino Construction Ahead Of Schedule

Builders of the Rivers Casino in Schenectady are sticking to an aggressive construction schedule as they plan to open sooner than previously projected. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at the ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday.

"It's the biggest project that's going on in upstate New York right now."   Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy isn't kidding. The former ALCO site is a beehive of construction activity across its 60 acres. Site work began in December, right after the New York State Gaming Commission awarded the gaming license. Besides the casino, plans include two hotels, a number of offices and condos, a 50-boat-slip harbor, a bike path and a pedestrian walkway.   "This is gonna be something that's gonna reflect well on the city of Schenectady and well on the region."

Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming and partner the Galesi Group of Rotterdam say the nearly 150,000-square foot gambling hall will have 1,150 slot machines, 63 gaming tables and a 163-room hotel.  Not to mention a steakhouse, entertainment lounge, banquet facility, marketplace restaurant and spa.

Rivers was one of three casinos granted licenses by the state in December. The other two are in the Finger Lakes and Catskills.  

Rush Street President and CEO Greg Carlin isn't concerned about the proximity of the MGM Casino going up in Springfield 100 miles away.     "We think of it as a different market from the Capital Region, if you look at the Capital Region there's roughly 900,000 people within an hour's drive or so of our property, and that's our market."

MGM Springfield officials did not respond to a request for comment. Mary Cheeks, general manager of Rivers Casino & Resort, says the employment process is just about ready to roll out, Rush Street gearing up to take applications for 1,200 positions.   "We'll be starting that almost immediate. Starting our whole applicant training system and putting all of our jobs online. So within the nest two to three weeks you'll hear and see about that."

Some employees from other Rush Street properties will be brought in to assist during the opening weeks as new card-dealers are trained at Schenectady County Community College.

The Mariott hotel opens in fall, apartments shortly thereafter, and Galesi Group COO David Buicko says that by the time the casino opens:    "The apartments will be up, the townhouses will be sold, the office building will be up and the Mariott will be open and you can put your kayak in the harbor."

Officials estimate the $150 million casino will take in gaming revenues at the rate of roughly $190 million the first year, increasing thereafter.  Again, Greg Carlin:  "Our expected opening date is actually the first quarter of 2017, assuming the weather cooperates with us."

With a total price tag pegged at $480 million, the Rivers initiative is expected to pump $4.1 million each to the city and county, with another $2 million going to the Schenectady City School District.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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