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What you need to know for 06/22/2017

Changes in works at Rivers Casino, including poker tournaments

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Changes in works at Rivers Casino, including poker tournaments

Some customers have expressed frustration
Changes in works at Rivers Casino, including poker tournaments
Rivers Casino & Resort exterior in Schenectady.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY -- Between several senior management staff members and roughly 700 surveillance cameras, somebody at Schenectady’s Rivers Casino & Resort is always watching.

That applies not just to security, but to customer feedback and experience.

“We’re open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so our leadership can’t always see everything that’s going on," said Danny Brockdorf, the casino's vice president of marketing. "But we can utilize surveillance when we’re not here to observe customer flow and some other things."

Rivers opened Feb. 8 on the Mohawk Harbor development to strong crowds, which persisted through the first weekend. Since then, it has continued to net at least $3 million per week in gaming revenue and pulled in $10.8 million in its first month from slots and table games after payouts.

However, some customers have expressed frustration with dining options, inadequate staffing and an inability to get a seat at certain table games.

“That’s the great thing about this area, is we get lots of feedback,” Brockdorf said, noting surveillance footage can help casino staff determine what concerns are legitimate.

RIVERSwalkthrough57.jpg

In terms of gaming, officials are working to open access to high-demand table games, particularly during peak crowd times. Those generally include Thursday and Friday nights, all day Saturday and into the early evening Sunday.

The casino’s 15-table poker room has been consistently crowded, and there is often a wait list of players looking to get a spot. Even at 11 a.m. on Thursday, almost half of the tables were in use.

“We have a very loyal crowd, already, of people that are here constantly,” Brockdorf said. “But we’re thinking about ways we could potentially accommodate more people.”

The primary method would be to have more dealers available. Brockdorf said there’s an ongoing dealer school that will produce more staff, and the casino is also looking to hire experienced dealers who would only need to go through an audition before stepping onto the floor.

The casino is also in the process of getting a poker tournament schedule approved by the state Gaming Commission. Details are still being sorted out, but the tournaments would likely start in April and take place during off hours, since all tables are occupied during key weekend times.

Among other table games, blackjack, craps and roulette tables are typically full, but the two biggest surprises have been the tables for let it ride and three-card poker, which have garnered a strong response from patrons, Brockdorf said.

Some customers have noted they're often left standing around waiting for a spot to open at let it ride tables, in particular.

“We’re currently looking at and evaluating ways to add more of those tables to the casino floor,” Brockdorf said. That could mean bringing additional let it ride tables, for example, or swapping less popular game tables out with a let it ride table.

On slot machines, Brockdorf said, the mix of games has been well received. However, many customers have expressed a desire to see their reward card data displayed in real time, as they play the machines, he said.

As a result, the casino will reprogram the content that appears in a small window on the slot machines to better reflect that information.

ENTERTAINMENT AND DINING

Van Slyck’s lounge and a few of the casino’s restaurants represent two other areas where customer feedback has led to adjustments.

At Van Slyck’s, customers wanted to dance along with the venue’s live music acts, but they didn’t have anywhere to do so. As a result, the casino shifted some seating, took out some pool tables and created a makeshift dance floor.

The marketplace area at the back of the gaming floor features four dining options. At two of them — Flipt and Johnny’s To Go — there’s been an effort to improve service, after reviewing feedback.

RIVERSwalkthrough43.jpg

The menus at both places have been condensed to focus on customer favorites. For example, Flipt now offers burgers, hot dogs and wings, while Johnny’s has put an emphasis on sandwiches and pizza.

“It allows for a lot better service experience, because that’s the thing the culinary team has expertise on,” Brockdorf said. “Secondly, it keeps it moving a little bit faster because those items are easier to make.”

Some customers voiced a desire to have a faster, cheaper dining experience in the casino’s upscale steakhouse. As a result, Brockdorf said, the casino is working on making items like hamburgers and appetizers available in the Dukes Chophouse lounge area.

“You want to put out more (at first) to see what customers are going to want, and then you pare it down to what they want and really get it perfect,” Brockdorf said of the menu alterations.

Another improvement the casino has in store is weather dependent. Patio space overlooking the Mohawk River from Dukes Chophouse, the VIP gaming lounge and the casino’s banquet space will be opened, once the snow is gone for good.

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