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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Rensselaer seeks Albany's support for casino

Rensselaer seeks Albany's support for casino

The city of Rensselaer and the city of Albany are going back and forth on casinos.

The city of Rensselaer and the city of Albany are going back and forth on casinos.

Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer on July 30 offered Albany $1 million a year for 10 years in revenue from a proposed casino in the city, in exchange for Albany’s exclusive support for a casino in Rensselaer. But there’s no deal — yet.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the original offer was never put in writing and that Dwyer never made it clear whether the agreement had to be exclusive. Casinos are also being pitched in Cobleskill, East Greenbush and Schenectady.

“We still don’t have anything in writing,” Sheehan said before an Albany Common Council meeting Monday evening. “Mayor Dwyer’s offer of $1 million never talked about what support meant from the city of Albany.”

Although the original offer was not put in writing, Sheehan countered by asking Dwyer for more money. She is looking to receive $1 million a year with a 2 percent increase each year for 10 years.

There was a deadline on Dwyer’s offer of 8:30 p.m. Monday. That deadline passed. It is unclear if the offer still stands. Dwyer was seeking exclusive support.

“At this point I have no idea what we would be saying yes to at 8:30 p.m. tonight,” Sheehan said.

The Albany Common Council passed a nonexclusive resolution vote backing the casino anyway, just in case the offer does expire. The resolution is contingent on Sheehan ultimately reaching an agreement with Dwyer and the casino developers.

“I think what we’re offering here today is a strong resolution,” council President Carolyn McLaughlin said. “We can only hope that casino comes as close to us as possible. Should Schenectady or Schoharie County get it, we get nothing. We get absolutely nothing.”

Sheehan said the goal of her efforts to receive casino revenue is to help combat potential negative impacts — such as an increase in crime and traffic — that spill over into Albany.

She is also waiting for a response from a proposed casino in East Greenbush, seeking a possible deal with the town and its developers. Officials with Saratoga Harness Racing, pitching the East Greenbush casino, declined to comment.

Hard Rock International is pursuing a $280 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at de Laet’s Landing in Rensselaer, a 24-acre site along the Hudson River directly across from downtown Albany.

In the Capital Region, tax rates on casinos are 45 percent for slots and 10 percent for table games. Of that revenue, 80 percent will be distributed statewide, 10 percent will go to surrounding counties in the region and 10 percent will be split between the host city and county.

Hard Rock is anticipating $260 million in annual gross gaming revenues and $100 million per year in gaming taxes. About $5.7 million would be provided to the city and the county of Rensselaer.

The state Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board is expected to choose sites for casinos in the fall. Public presentations of proposed casinos in the region are scheduled for Sept. 8 and a public hearing will be held Sept. 22 in Albany.

It appears Sheehan is not seeking agreements with proposed casinos in Cobleskill and Schenectady.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he has been in informal discussions with Sheehan throughout the entire casino process. But Schenectady is not looking to give Albany a portion of its casino revenue.

“Our impact on Albany would be less significant than a site in the city of Rensselaer,” he said. “I’m looking to work with the regional municipalities in terms of recruitment for employees.”

McCarthy pointed to Schenectady County Community College’s downtown Albany location as a place to train prospective employees under the school’s two-year casino and gaming management program.

The proposed casino in Schenectady — Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor — is expected to generate 1,200 permanent jobs. McCarthy said people who live in Albany and graduate from SCCC’s program would fill some of those jobs.

“There is a level of excitement with the nanocollege in Albany, GlobalFoundries in Saratoga and General Electric in Schenectady,” he said. “A casino now is more of a hot topic that will have a big impact on the area.”

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