Rivers Casino opens next week

Rivers Casino will bring table-gaming to the area. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

SCHENECTADY — Rivers Casino & Resort is set to open at noon next Wednesday, and its general manager would not be surprised to see people lined up to get in.

A veteran of 27 years in the gaming industry, Mary Cheeks said she’s seen the public lining up at 4 a.m. in some locales.

“I’m very excited,” she said during an afternoon news briefing and tour Wednesday.

She said 30,000 people from as far away as 120 miles already have signed up on the casino’s website indicating an intent to visit soon.

The casino, which can accommodate 7,029 people, including staff, will be open 24/7 and is one of the economic development initiatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Galesi Group, a partner in the casino, is building the Mohawk Harbor project nearby to house hotel, condominium, retail and commercial businesses and restaurants that will complement the casino. That project is expected to be open by summer, as is the casino’s own hotel, according to casino officials.

Cheeks called the casino “a gated community, a destination, a great complex.”

Right now the casino has an empty event center. The center can hold 600 to 900 people depending on whether it is a sit-down dinner or convention, such as a trade show. It can be divided into five rooms for events such as weddings, birthdays and smaller activities, including sports.

Carney McGuire, director of sales, doesn’t expect the 10,000-square-foot event center to be empty for long. “It is ready to be booked, and my phone is ringing constantly,” she said.

The room is next to a lounge that has sliding doors that will be access a patio in warmer weather.

The casino will have live music Friday and Saturday evenings and DJ music around the clock.

The gaming area, which is accessible only to people 21 or older, has variety of options from slots to board games.

Rosemarie Cook said dealers will help new gamers to play, and she showed two examples of how-to pamphlets for craps and blackjack.

“Craps is the most unlimited game [in terms of betting], but it’s very easy to play,” she said.

“It’s a group game in which everybody gets to throw the dice.”

The casino has 67 table games.

The gaming floor has the glitter and glitz of 1,150 slot machines almost as far as the eye can see. Nowadays real cash is fed into the machine rather than money converted to chips.

The machines are themed to draw people, including Game of Thrones, Plants vs. Zombies, House of Cards and Elvis.

Steve Colachi, who is in charge of the slots, said 10 percent of the machines are changed each year depending on how many people they attract. This is a small gamble for the casino because “you just don’t know [which slots will engage the most people] until they’re tried,” Colachi said.

The slot-machine seating is made to be comfortable and will vibrate a bit with the games, and the sounds and light intensity can be adjusted by the gamers, he said.

Refreshments are available on the gaming floor served by waitresses in miniskirts or short shorts.

The casino has 15 poker tables, which are more secluded from the gaming floor.

Van Slyck’s is a bar that has large-screen TVs around it to watch sports and other entertainment.

The Marketplace is a food court that has five restaurants managed by the Mallozzi Restaurant Group-Johnny’s To Go, Mian, FLIPT, Dukes Chophouse and Villa Italia. Mallozzi’s is the casino’s sole catering service.

A designated High Limit area features slots and gaming tables and has its own patio access and connection to Dukes Chophouse restaurant.

The casino’s Splash Spa will offer an array of beauty and relaxation treatments.

Joe Scibetta, vice president of development and operations for the casino owners, Rush Street Gaming, said that general Rush’s casinos generally start turning a profit in three to five years. The company also owns casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Des Plaines outside of Chicago. Its existing casinos generate more than $1 billion in gaming revenues annually, according to a news release.

The Schenectady operation expects to employ 1,022 and currently has 960 workers, Cheeks said. Twenty-five percent of its employees are experienced, and the rest “we train, train, train,” she said.

Scibetta said the combination of the casino and the project of the Rotterdam-based Galesi Group makes good use of the riverfront. He said Galesi has turned an old American Locomotive Company (ALCO) “brown field site with dilapidated buildings” into useful property.

Scibetta said Rush Street Gaming tries to give back to the communities where it’s located by charitable contributions and involvement of its executives and other personnel in community organizations-Chicago, in Alzheimer’s walks; Pittsburgh, the YMCA and United Way; and Philadelphia, the Police Athletic League.

By Chad Fleck

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