SCHENECTADY — The City Council has signed off on a resolution of support for Rivers Casino & Resort to offer “track odds” for horse racing.
Rivers Casino & Resort currently offers off-track betting, or OTB.
OTB payouts have fees taken out before winners are paid. The new program would eliminate that existing 5 percent surcharge, which means the payoff is the same as if the player is at the track itself.
The City Council quickly approved the measure, said City Council President Ed Kosiur, in order to allow the new program in time for the Kentucky Derby, which runs in May.
“It’s an opportunity to continue the strong relationship and partnership with Rivers Casino,” Kosiur said after Monday’s vote, which was unanimous.
Officials believe eliminating the fee will serve as an additional draw to the casino.
“Casino players are pretty sophisticated betters,” said Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (OTB) President & CEO John Signor. “I think once people realize we’re paying track odds, it will be more attractive to betters.”
Language approving the program was in the state budget adopted last week.
UNIQUE IN STATE
Rivers Casino & Resort is the only casino in the state to offer live on-site horse betting.
If the shift is approved by the state Gaming Commission, Rivers would also be the only casino in the state to offer both sports betting and horse racing, a development Signor said will make the location “significantly more attractive” to players.
“It’s a winner for the casino, OTB and taxpayers,” Signor said in a phone interview on Monday.
City officials and OTB also contend track odds will increase revenue for both the casino and local governments, as well as benefit tracks statewide through increased participation.
OTB collected $1 million in gross revenue at Rivers in 2018, Signor said.
Signor estimates offering track odds will boost revenues steered toward city of Schenectady and Schenectady County between $50,000 and $100,000.
“I expect it to increase once sports betting commences to $2.5 million to $5 million in business,” Signor said.
Kosiur said the city budgeted $175,000 in projected revenues from OTB into this year’s budget.
As the host communities, the city and Schenectady County each receive 5 percent of casino revenue. Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie and Washington counties each take a cut.
SPORTS BETTING COMING
The proposed change comes when casinos are preparing for sports gaming.
The state Gaming Commission last month released draft rules for sports gaming, launching a process that could let Rivers Casino & Resort and other upstate casinos offer sports betting by this summer.
The draft rules are subject to a 60-day public comment period that will end May 20.
The earliest the commission could adopt the rules would be late May, though it has the option of taking longer if there are substantive comments.
Rivers and the other casinos would then need to submit applications for sports gambling to the Gaming Commission for approval.
The draft rules would allow betting on all professional sports, subject to each league and type of bet being approved by the commission.
But betting on amateur sports, except for some college contests, would be prohibited, as would sports involving New York state-based colleges.
Reach Gazette reporter Pete DeMola at 518-395-3113, [email protected] or @pmdemola on Twitter.