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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

A look at Rivers Casino’s gaming numbers 6 months after opening

Casino

A look at Rivers Casino’s gaming numbers 6 months after opening

City, county figure to each receive $2 million by year's end
A look at Rivers Casino’s gaming numbers 6 months after opening
Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — Rivers Casino & Resort’s second quarter in business saw the opening of its hotel, residents move into apartments down the road and both its best and worst week to date in terms of gaming revenue.

The casino, which opened on Feb. 8, recently wrapped up its first six months of operations. To date, patrons have spent roughly $503.1 million on slots and table games at the facility, which has led to $22.4 million in state gaming tax to be distributed among local municipalities, according to data from the New York State Gaming Commission.

Of that tax money, roughly $1.1 million is earmarked for the city and county of Schenectady as host communities. A little more than half of that came in Rivers’ first three months in business.

If business continues at its current pace, the city and county would each get a little more than $2 million in gaming money at year’s end. As has been the case from the start, the casino appears poised to fall well short of what was expected by each government entity.

In budgeting for 2017, the city and county both used the low-end projection from the casino’s application and pro-rated it to a March opening. That leaves each government expecting about $2.75 million in gaming revenue for 2017. Gaming revenue is expected to stabilize by 2019.

The gaming commission sent out second-quarter payments in mid-July to beneficiary communities. The payments are made quarterly based on the calendar year.

Summer has brought with it mostly steady numbers for the casino, with gross gaming revenue — the money left over after payouts — typically registering in the mid-$2 million range per week. The exceptions were the week of June 5, when the casino barely broke the $2 million mark, and the week of July 10, when the facility set a record with $3.8 million in gaming revenue.

In the weeks since racing started in Saratoga, Rivers has seen closer to average weekly numbers. The casino has made its presence known at the race track in an attempt to lure regional visitors to its Schenectady property, and recently announced a second major poker tournament.

In July, Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said the county was looking to save $900,000 annually in the coming years, thanks to the infusion of casino money. Based on the casino’s performance through its first five-and-a-half months, the county is now expecting to see about $855,000 in annual savings, McQueen said.

The county and city typically reveal their annual budgets in late September and early October for the upcoming year.

The state taxes Rivers’ gaming revenue at a rate of 10 percent on table games and 45 percent on slot machines, which is the highest among commercial casinos in New York. The rate was determined in the Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013, which legalized the construction new commercial casinos in Schenectady, Seneca and Sullivan counties, and the expansion of Tioga Downs.

Of the tax money, 80 percent is redistributed to public schools across New York, based on the state’s education formula. Another 10 percent is split evenly between the city and county of Schenectady as host communities.

The remaining 10 percent is divided among Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie and Washington counties, based on population. For example, Albany County receives the highest percentage, then Saratoga County, and so on.

Here’s a look at how much Rivers Casino has paid out to local municipalities in state gaming tax through July, according to state Gaming Commission numbers:

  • Education: $17.9 million
  • City of Schenectady: $1.1 million
  • Schenectady County: $1.1 million
  • Albany County: $770,388
  • Fulton County: $140,630
  • Montgomery County: $127,178
  • Rensselaer County: $403,750
  • Saratoga County: $556,148
  • Schoharie County: $82,936
  • Washington County: $160,092
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