SCHENECTADY — Rivers has gained approval to be the first casino in the state to offer on-site horse wagering, in the form of an OTB branch at the riverfront facility.
Rivers Casino & Resort and Capital Off-Track Betting announced the decision Thursday. The equipment will be installed Friday at Van Slyck’s, adjacent to the gaming floor, and will be operational in time for Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby, the biggest horse race in the world.
Officials with the two organizations said it is expected to be a win-win situation, attracting more guests to the casino, providing an additional option to bet on horse races, and increasing taxes paid to local governments.
Three betting terminals will be available, two of them at the bar. There will be a kiosk window with a live teller available to take bets and provide customer service. Televisions in the bar area will be specifically designated for horse racing, airing races from four tracks at a time.
The state Gaming Commission said Thursday that Rivers is the only one of the state’s four casinos to be authorized to host an OTB branch. Capital OTB will have to comply with all Gaming Commission regulations in its operations at the casino and its employees who work there will need to hold a license issued by the commission.
The state’s 11 video-gaming racinos also offer wagering on horse races, both at their own tracks and elsewhere.
The closest racino to Rivers is Saratoga Casino Hotel, 20 miles north. New York State Racing, Pari-Mutuel and Breeding Law required that the Saratoga Casino Hotel give its approval for the new OTB branch, and that’s what it did.
In a statement, Saratoga Casino Hotel general manager Alex Tucker said: “In the spirit of cooperation, we felt this would be beneficial to those parties, and just as importantly, to New York’s gaming and horse racing industries as a whole.”
He added that Saturday will remain an important occasion for Saratoga Casino Hotel, despite the new OTB branch nearby: “For the last 35 years, Kentucky Derby Day has remained a flagship event for our property, and we look forward to continuing that tradition this weekend.”
Off track betting has been in trouble for years in New York state. The handle — the total sum of bets — declined from $741 million in 2011 to $591 million in 2015, for example.
Saratoga Casino Hotel, meanwhile, has suffered the revenue loss it predicted it would have once Rivers opened for business in mid-February 2017.
For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018, it reported $130.8 million in net revenue on $1.97 billion gambled, down from $164 million net revenue on $2.42 billion gambled a year earlier.