ROTTERDAM — Some town lawmakers are excited about the idea of bingo being played at the ViaPort shopping mall.
Supervisor Mollie Collins and Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson said last week that a bingo hall at the now-shuttered Kmart space located at the West Campbell Road mall is not only an appropriate use for the space, but an exciting proposition that could help bring more people to ViaPort, and expect town lawmakers to act quickly on the proposal.
“I think it would be great,” Collins said. “I don’t really know anyone who is against it.”
The Town Board last week held a public hardship hearing, where a handful of organizations seeking to operate weekly bingo games shared details on why it was necessary to host games in town, as well as details on how the weekly games would be operated. The hearing is required under state law whenever an operator from outside a jurisdiction is seeking to hold bingo games within a municipality’s borders.
Among the organizations seeking to hold weekly bingo games are Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons school from Schenectady, the Cyprus Shriners of Glenmont and its subsidiary, the Schenectady Shrine Club. The Beukendaal Temple Association of Scotia would operate the bingo hall, which would occupy 20,000 square feet inside the former Kmart store.
Richard Van Vorst, the potentate of the Cyprus Shriners, said the nonprofit fraternal organization relies heavily on revenue generated during weekly bingo games, but have been dealt a blow since the Schenectady Bingo Palace, where the organization used to host games, closed down during the pandemic and has since been sold.
“Bingo was one of our largest sources of income for our operations,” he said. “We have struggled tremendously in the past two years financially not being able to do some of the things we’ve done in the past.”
Van Vorst said the Cyprus Shiners are “desperate” to get bingo operations running again, noting the organization has tried other fundraising efforts but none have panned out.
At Bishop Gibbons, a small private Catholic school in Schenectady, Mickie Baldwin, the school’s director of development, said a similar scene has been playing out.
The school has been holding bingo games for more than 20 years, with the revenue going towards operating expenses and the school’s academic mission. Bishop Gibbons serves around 200 students, two-thirds of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunches, indicating a high level of poverty, Baldwin said.
“When I say that bingo would be an important revenue stream for us going forward, I mean that,” Baldwin said. “Not only to continue our mission of educating the whole child, but also keeping the lights on … keeping the heat on and being able to bus our students to their conference games.”
Representatives from the organizations said they scouted other locations to host the games, but ultimately settled on ViaPort due to its lower overhead costs, access to public transit and proximity to an established player base, which typically attracts more than 200 players per event.
The bingo games would be run by certified volunteers and would be open to anyone 18 and older.
The Beukendaal Temple Association has already been granted a license to operate the bingo hall by the state’s Gaming Commission, and plans to operate the facility at ViaPort were approved by the town’s Planning Commission last year.
Town lawmakers now must approve a hardship application for the organizations seeking to run bingo games before the organizations can be granted a license by the state.
Dodson noted the Town Board is in the process of collecting additional information, but expects lawmakers will approve the hardship application as early as this month.
“We didn’t hear anything from our standpoint that would negate moving forward with the application,” he said. “At this point in time, I think we need to expediate our part of the process.”
The Town Board is set to meet 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at Town Hall, 1100 Sunrise Blvd.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.
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