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State set to award casino license for Schenectady

State set to award casino license for Schenectady

One year after being recommended for a license, Schenectady’s planned Rivers Casino will officially
State set to award casino license for Schenectady
The waters of the Mohawk River flow into the new harbor area at the future Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor in this Nov. 4 photo.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

One year after being recommended for a license, Schenectady’s planned Rivers Casino will officially be awarded one on Monday.

The state Gaming Commission will meet then and vote on awarding casino licenses to the Schenectady project along with planned casinos in Tyre, Seneca County, and Thompson, Sullivan County.

“The commission needs to vote to award the license,” said Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park. “It’s basically a large contract. They can start and have started construction regardless of having a license. That’s a decision for the builders.”

The Gaming Commission will meet at 2 p.m. Monday in New York City. The meeting will be streamed live at gaming.ny.gov.

The long-awaited meeting to award licenses comes after the Gaming Facility Location Board, a subsidiary of the Gaming Commission, recommended the three upstate commercial casino projects for licenses Dec. 17 of last year.

If the licenses are awarded on Monday, it’s unclear when the effective date of the licenses would be. The Gaming Commission plans to discuss the details during the meeting, Park said.

The operators are required to pay the state a $50 million licensing fee within 30 days of the effective date of the license, he said. Developers then have two years from the effective date of licensure to build the casinos.

The $330 million Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, a joint venture by Rotterdam developer Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, is expected to be built within 16 to 18 months of receiving a license.

That means the casino could open its doors by spring 2017. Rush Street declined to comment today for this story.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he is optimistic that the casino will open by early 2017. He said he expects city residents to benefit with about a 10 percent tax cut in 2017.

The casino, with 1,150 slot machines and 66 table games, is expected to bring in $223 million in gaming revenue by its third year of operation. Rush Street will provide $4.1 million to both the city and the county, and $2 million to the Schenectady City School District each year.

“It has taken longer than anyone thought in the beginning,” McCarthy said. “We have proceeded ahead on the site and Rush Street has authorized some site work in anticipation of the licenses being awarded. We also have Mohawk Harbor and other buildings going up in downtown. This is a community undergoing an economic transformation.”

McCarthy said the city is reviewing the potential negative impacts resulting from a casino, such as an increase in demand for police and fire department services. He did not provide specifics.

“We will be able to adequately address any issue that comes up as a result of the ongoing project,” he said.

Councilman Vince Riggi said he believes the city should have done a cost analysis on extra expenses for paramedics, police and fire that would come from having a casino in the Electric City.

“I think at some point, and hopefully soon, somebody will put together an analysis of what our requirements will be as a city and what we will be expected to do and come up with,” he said. “I think the time is well past to start looking into this. All we keep hearing about is the money that is coming in.”

Work underway

Work is ongoing at Mohawk Harbor by the Galesi Group with construction of a 50-boat-slip harbor, a 204-unit apartment building and 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Galesi COO David Buicko said work is on schedule on the 60-acre brownfield site with office buildings expected to go out to bid soon. Also planned on the site are condominiums, townhouses, retail space and restaurants.

“The harbor is done,” he said. “We are finishing underground parking for the apartments. Then we will build up with 204 units. We’re shooting for a September or October opening of the Marriott. Shortly we will be finalizing numbers on the townhouses. Our side of the project is moving ahead very much on schedule. The weather has been terrific.”

Galesi is working to decontaminate the site with the state Department of Environmental Conservation as part of the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The old Alco site was home to the American Locomotive Company, which built locomotives there until it shut down in 1969.

“We’re right on schedule with the brownfield cleanup and by the end of 2016 we will finish it,” Buicko said. “Part of the remediation is bringing in fill and putting in ground cover. You can’t finish the cleanup until the foundations are there and buildings are up. This is a brownfield, but it’s a template in New York for how to take abandoned factories across the state and put them to good use.”

Also on the site are manufacturer STS Steel and a small nuclear reactor owned and operated by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Buicko said development is happening around STS and the reactor. There are no immediate plans to move them off site, he said.

“Both have been very cooperative and supportive of the project,” he said. “We are working with them being located there. Should anybody decide to leave, that’s their prerogative. Our design has always included the RPI facility.”

Walls have been built around STS and the reactor to shield the facilities from the rest of the site. The reactor is positioned at the head of the harbor along the Mohawk River.

“We are working around RPI and put fencing there with the entrance along the river and a wall around it,” Buicko said. “A wall was designed around STS and they will have ingress and egress to the facility.”

RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson said Wednesday that the school is “studying” what the future of the reactor would be and how it would fit into the university’s academic mission.

She said “it will be a while” before the school provides a clear direction about the long-term plan for the facility.

Glenn Tabolt, president of STS Steel, said he has worked out an arrangement with Galesi and the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority to keep the steel manufacturer on site.

“We’ve worked out the various property issues like ingress and egress and property boundaries,” he said. “I think we have a good understanding of how we are going to work together. I think it will work. I don’t think the casino will affect us and what we do.”

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