James Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said people would visit a casino in the city of Rensselaer because of the brand’s popularity and the site’s riverfront location.
Allen spent most of the day Monday meeting with city officials and reporters at de Laet’s Landing, where he is pursuing a $280 million development project — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
“The attraction of being on the water is so beneficial in any development,” Allen said, pointing to the view of downtown Albany across the Hudson River. “I think that makes this site so much more desirable than anything else that has been submitted.”
Allen plans to take advantage of the waterfront location by creating a boardwalk and building restaurants — a steakhouse, marketplace and upscale dining venue — with outdoor seating overlooking the river.
The Hard Rock casino would have 1,500 slot machines, 50 table games and an Off-Track Betting outlet. Plans also include a 250-seat Hard Rock Cafe, 100-room hotel, Hard Rock Center Bar, a Rock Spa, a Body Rock fitness center and meeting space.
The casino is expected to generate $260 million in gross gaming revenue each year and create 1,638 direct and indirect jobs. Allen said the company would be looking to hire people on both sides of the river.
“We will need a lot of jobs,” he said. “Individuals that are interested in working — whether they are located on this side or the Albany side — there would be great opportunity for people to obtain employment.”
Allen said he also would be targeting local vendors to operate restaurants and other services on site. Hard Rock is planning a vendor fair in Rensselaer to meet with local businesses in the next two or three months.
Entertainment on site would be limited so Hard Rock does not compete with local venues, Allen said. He said they have yet to reach a formal agreement, but he is looking to work with other facilities.
Also, crime and traffic are not a concern for Allen if a casino were to be built on the 24-acre site.
Although criminal activity would pop up, he said, he doesn’t believe it would have a negative impact.
“I don’t think it will have any effect whatsoever on crime in the area,” he said. “Do I think that in the casino complex itself we will have slips and falls with 5,000 to 10,000 people a day going through it? Yes, most definitely. But we have been doing this for many decades and will have our own security and will work with the local police department.”
Hard Rock is looking to have the facility up and running within a year after construction begins. Global Gaming Solutions, the commercial arm of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, is consulting on the project.
Allen is depending on the Hard Rock name to attract visitors. He said the casino and cafe would be decorated with music memorabilia from artists who have ties to New York state.
“The brand is so well known that it itself will create an attraction,” he said. “If it was just ‘Jim’s Place,’ well, what’s that? But if it’s Hard Rock, people will want to come and check it out. We will try to tie the memorabilia to New York and the Capital Region.”
Allen is facing competition from four other proposed casino sites in the Capital Region.
On Sept. 8 and 9, public presentations will be made in Albany for each casino proposal, including those being pitched in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier. Allen said he will be there touting the Hard Rock project.
“We look at this as a destination, not just another casino,” Allen said.
“If we are chosen, we know we can do a great job for the state. We know our brand is much more successful than any of the other competitors.”