Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady has begun taking New York’s first legal sports wagers.
With the approval of the New York Gaming Commission, the “Rivers Sportsbook” lounge opened Tuesday with six betting windows, 14 kiosks, and plenty of applause. State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, both Democrats, were among the first to place their bets.
"I bet on Seattle," said Pretlow.
"I couldn't bet the Yankees or the Mets," McCarthy explained. "I had to bet Boston."
The new lounge occupies about 5,000 square feet bordered by a massive video wall and 22 TV screens off the casino’s main gaming floor. Rivers spokesperson Rob Christopher is particularly excited to see the space open before the start of the NFL season in September, but says there are plenty of betting options in the meantime.
“You can bet on anything," Christoper notes. "But the big ones right now are gonna be, there’s a big boxing match this weekend, and you also have the British Open starting – and also, of course, baseball.”
Well, almost anything – New York is one of 10 states to allow sports betting following a key Supreme Court ruling in 2018. But you can’t bet on the state’s college teams, and you have to bet in-person for now. That said, Democratic State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, says sports betting has changed the gaming industry from “a disabled car on the shoulder of a roadway” and put it in the “right lane.” He looks to mobile sports betting to push it forward.
“You can’t sit on the sidelines forever. You know, we have, already, gaming in our state," says Addabbo. "Other states around us are, really, cannibalizing us as a state – our state money goes to [New] Jersey, 25 percent of which. So now I think the governor, who works very methodically, understands that, hey, maybe we need to do this in a very methodical, very credible way. We get to give that back to our students in terms of educational funding, and jobs.”
Assemblyman Pretlow says he’d like to see mobile betting in New York by the middle of next year. In speaking to WAMC, however, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo questioned its economic credibility.
“You look at the numbers and data on gaming, obviously more people lose in gambling than win, and if there’s not a significant economic benefit to the state or region of the state, then I would rather not do it," Cuomo explained. "And that’s what the research has to show.”
New York recently commissioned a study to look at the state’s gambling industry.
Regardless, it was all smiles at Rivers Casino and Resort on Tuesday. Opening day saw appearances by former New York Giant Sean Landeta, former New York Jet Erik Coleman, and Yankee great Bucky Dent. Capital Region Democratic State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says the lounge is a major tourism win for Schenectady, and brings sports betting out of the shadows.
"And let's not forget, this was a $150 billion industry that operated underground," says Santabarbara. "Now it has become open and transparent, has consumer protections built in, and people are doing it in a responsible way."
The Rivers Sportsbook lounge will be open until midnight on weeknights, and 1 a.m. on weekends. Other casinos in upstate New York plan to open their own lounges soon — Tioga Downs Casino Resort in the Southern Tier plans to offer sports betting starting Friday.