Rivers Casino wants to make sure that when it comes to entertainment, there’s nothing to gamble on.
“We want to become the entertainment capital of the Capital Region,” said Justin Moore, assistant manager at Rivers.
Since the casino opened in 2017, the line-up has changed.
“We started ramping up our entertainment because people kept saying ‘Well, I don’t gamble,’” Moore said.
It took a little while - and a few big acts - to get people to start thinking of the casino as more than just slot machines and blackjack tables. Given the attendance of their Harbor Jam series, they’re well on their way to being thought of as an all-around entertainment getaway.
Between the Entertainment Center, which seats 860, Van Slyck’s, which seats around 200, and Dukes Chophouse, they’re continuing to bring in as many acts as they can during the winter season.
In the next few months, they’ve got comedian Tracy Morgan, country singer Dylan Scott, and Lords of 52nd Street.
Getting the performers there is a team effort, according to Moore. Rivers works with Judy Alberti and Salvatore Prizio of Proctors to create their line-up.
“It’s been a very symbiotic relationship,” Prizio said.
Years before the casino opened, back in 2014, Proctors and 13 other upstate arts and entertainment venues came together to create the Upstate Theater Coalition for a Fair Game.
They worked with the New York State Gaming Commision and with the governor’s office to get casinos across the region to create the Fair Game Agreement. It ensures that the casinos, which have an entirely different pricing structure than performing arts centers, work with the local venues on their entertainment scheduling and negotiating.
According to a Gazette article from 2017, the casino also makes a payment of less than one percent of their yearly gaming revenue to the coalition, which is shared between its members.
Rivers and Proctors work closely; Rivers commissions Proctors to handle a certain percentage of booking shows like Wayne Brady or the Lords of 52nd Street.
Each venue at Rivers calls for a different sort of entertainment, according to Prizio. Van Slyck’s is designed for a party, to give people a good time, with DJs or trivia most nights of the week along with other acts. Dukes is more of a piano bar and the Entertainment Center, as the name suggests, lends itself to a little bit of everything.
“We’re doing a lot more than we were doing a year ago,” Prizio said.
There are the classic rock shows, which always bring in a good crowd. But they’re also holding murder mystery dinners, comedy, 80s hair metal bands, psychic mediums, trivia shows and dinner shows. Rivers also hosts Rock-a-oke Live! each week, where people can sing karaoke with a live band.
“The band has a list of [about] 75 songs,” Prizio said. If you come regularly, you can also ask them to learn a song that you might want to perform. According to Prizio, they’re the only venue in the area that’s running a show like that.
“We were open to ideas,” Moore said, “Some of the stuff we’re doing, people approached us on.”
Cage Wars, which has sold out nearly every time they’ve held it, was one such event that they were approached about holding.
“They’re trying their best to ‘wow’ this area,” Prizio said.
He added that Rivers is also open with other entertainment venues about what they’re planning. “They’re checking in with all the other performing arts centers in the area,” Prizio said. That way no one is double booked and they can make sure they’re bringing in a variety of shows.
Over the next few weeks, they’ve got comedian and actor Tracy Morgan coming for a second show, country artists Dylan Scott and Logan Brill, and The Lords of 52nd Street coming to perform.
Then towards the holiday season, Prizio said people can expect more party bands and a bit more classic rock. They’re also already planning Harbor Jam for 2019, a series which exceeded their expectations in its first year. By the end of the summer season, they had a crowd of a few thousand coming each week. Prizio and Moore are hoping they have similar turnouts through the fall and winter season.
Here’s a glimpse at the schedule:
2nd annual Electric City Food Truck Festival — 5-9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, on the waterfront. About 10 food trucks and Rivers bars will participate. Live entertainment is planned from the party band Kick. It is open to the public.
Petty Breakers - 8 p.m. Sat. Oct. 6 in the Events Center
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute band
Vietnamese Music Concert - 8 p.m. Sun. Oct. 14 in the Events Center
A mix of Vietnamese, English and Chinese music
Rolled and On The Rocks: Cigar and Whiskey Event
7-9 p.m. Thu. Oct. 25 in the Events Center
There will be a whiskey tasting event and attendees can roll their own cigars
“Crime and Pun-ishment: A 1920s Murder Mystery Dinner Show”
6:30 p.m. Wed. Oct. 31
Dinner, a show and a whodunit mystery.
8 p.m. Fri. Nov. 9 in the Event Center
Comedian and actor returns to Rivers
Dylan Scott with Logan Brill
8 p.m. Sat. Now. 10 in the Events Center
Both are rising country musicians. Scott is known for his romantic ballads and Brill is known for blending country with blues.
The Lords of 52nd Street
8 p.m. Sun. Nov. 11
Performing songs from their touring days with Billy Joel.
For more information visit riverscasinoandresort.com.