With a week until opening day, Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady is nearly ready to show its hand to the public.
Outside the building, workers donning green vests hammered away to put the finishing touches on the $330 million project before doors open for good next Wednesday at noon. Inside, a “mock casino” day was underway as staff members practiced their roles with each other, making final preparations for the opening day rush.
“I’m feeling very anxious and very excited about opening these doors and never closing them,” said Mary Cheeks, the casino’s general manager.
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The facility features many standbys associated with casinos: bright slot machines, the sound of dice crashing at a craps table and ATMs along a wall for gamers in need of extra cash.
Other amenities are specific to Rush Street Gaming’s latest venture. An upscale steakhouse just off the gaming floor is decorated with pictures from Schenectady’s past. At the back of the room are two local restaurants serve up meals and pastries for hungry gamers. And at the edges of the facility, windows let in natural light and provide views of the Mohawk River.
With the casino set to open next Wednesday at noon, here’s a look at what’s inside:
Visitors who step onto the brown and red patterned carpet of the gaming floor will be greeted with bright colors, flashing lights and felt tables.
Upon entering the facility, visitors will find the gaming floor down the hall to their left. When a customer first walks into the gaming area, they’ll find a pocket of open space where they can take in the entire room, including the dining options in the back.
“The idea is to have a full view of your surroundings,” said Rosemarie Cook, vice president of gaming.
Table games line the walkway down the center of the room, and slots are set up all along the room’s perimeter. Waitresses circulated around the floor Wednesday clad in blue Rivers shirts and black shorts and skirts to take drink orders.
The 50,000-square-foot space features 67 table games, which include staples such as blackjack, craps and roulette, as well as other card games like Let It Ride, Mississippi Stud, Pai Gow Poker and more.
For first-time visitors or those looking to try something new, game guides are available at each table that explain the rules, Cook said.
Roughly 1,150 slot machines surround the gaming tables, and are difficult to miss as they project neon blue, green and red lights across the floor. Options include standard reel slots or newer video games.
Signs hanging from the gaming floor ceiling direct visitors from the gaming floor to adjacent dining options and additional gambling areas.
Poker room and high limit area
Poker players can get their fix in two different areas bordering the gaming floor, depending on their desired intensity.
On one end, 15 custom-made poker tables with additional padding, cup holders and charging docks at each seat are located in a separate poker room.
To the other side of the gaming floor is the high limit area, which is intended to give high rollers a more private area to go all-in. Where the gaming floor contains penny slots and other video games, the high limit area boasts slots that range from $5 to $100 per spin.
Just beyond the flashing slot machines is a separate room stocked with cream colored tables, where gamblers can play table games that require higher minimum wagers than the rest of the facility.
An adjacent VIP lounge offers high rollers the chance to take a break from the action in a more private setting that borders the facility’s steakhouse.
Located all the way at the back of the gaming floor but faintly visible from the entrance is the marketplace, which serves as an express dining option.
The marketplace is modeled after a concept developed at the Sugarhouse Casino, a Rush Street property in Philadelphia. There are four dining options available, with two of them local establishments and two of them holdovers from the Rivers Casino is Des Plaines, Illinois.
The Mallozzi Group, which operates several area restaurants, will oversee all dining options at Rivers Casino and Resort. On Wednesday, sunlight poured into the marketplace and surrounding seating through a nearby window.
Among the options is Johnny’s To Go, which sell pizzas and other express meals based on top sellers from the restaurant’s State Street location. Johnny’s will be open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. during the week, and will stay open until 2 a.m. on the weekends, Bobby Mallozzi said.
Villa Italia, another Schenectady favorite, offers pastries and desserts. Cookies, cannoli and more are on display in a large glass case facing the gaming area. The café will also serve coffee, and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Mallozzi said.
Mian will serve noodle bowls and other Asian cuisine, and will be open 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. during the week, and remain open until 4 a.m. on the weekends.
Flipt will offer burgers, hot dogs, salads and other sandwiches, and will open at 6 a.m., Mallozzi said.
Dukes Chophouse serves as the upscale dining option on site, and is named after Tony “The Duke” DeLorenzo, the first employee for Mohawk Harbor developer The Galesi Group.
The space seats over 100 guests and features a patio space that overlooks the now-snow-covered Mohawk River. A private dining space for special events is just off the dining room next to the high limit area.
The walls are covered in framed photos depicting Schenectady history, including shots of old businesses, cars driving down State Street and significant city leaders.
The bar looks out onto the gaming floor, while the dining area is a bit darker and intended to feel more elegant, lit up mostly by the lights on each table.
“You’re sitting in Dukes Chophouse and it looks and feels different [than the gaming floor] and that’s all by design,” said Joe Scibetta, vice president of development and operations for Rush Street Gaming.
Across the gaming floor from Dukes and the high-limit area is Van Slyck’s, a 5,000-squre-foot lounge space that will feature gaming, entertainment and drinks.
Dedicated slot machines and gaming tables are located in the space, along with several large-screen TVs. Local bands and DJs are expected to perform at Van Slyck’s as well. Three acts are scheduled to perform on opening day, with shows going on at 1, 6 and 10 p.m.
The space had a nightclub feel to it Wednesday, with a few small tables set up facing the stage area, and billiards and casino games lining the perimeter.
The lounge is named after one of the families involved in the Colonial-era settlement of Schenectady.
The event center is accessible from the main entrance, meaning visitors don’t have to travel across the gaming floor to step inside the 10,000-square-foot space.
The banquet hall looks out onto the Mohawk River and can accommodate 600 people when circular tables are set up inside, or roughly 900 people when it’s just an open floor. An adjoining 2,000-square-foot room between the event center and the casino’s entrance serves as a pre-function space with plenty of couches and seats.
Officials are expecting the event center to be used for business conferences, birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and more. Cheeks, the casino GM, said whereas Van Slyck’s will feature smaller local bands, she envisions the event center hosting country music acts and watch parties for boxing, mixed martial arts and other sports.
The banquet area can also be separated by partitions into as many as five different spaces at a time, said Carney McGuire, director of sales with Rivers Casino.
“There’s a lot of space to uniquely divide up,” she said, adding that the casino has already received interest from business conferences that are looking to come to Schenectady as far out as 2019.