Rivers Casino and Resort Set to Open on February 8 in Schenectady, New York
Rivers Casino and Resort opens in Schenectady, New York on February 8. When it opens, Rivers Casino will be the first of the gaming developments approved in December 2015 to open.
The entire complex, including a convention hall, spa, entertainment lounge, and restaurant area, cost $330 million to build. Rivers Casino’s gaming space includes 67 table games, 1150 slot machines and video poker machines, and 15 poker tables. The new casino is going to be located on Erie Boulevard on the site of the old Mohawk Harbor resort.
Splash Spa Opens in Late February
All amenities except the spa will be operational for the grand opening on February 8. The Splash Spa, which is not a part of the gaming area, is expected to oepn later in the month. Patrons under-21 cannot enter the casino, but will have access to the spa. In summer of 2017, a 165-room hotel associated with the resort is expected to open.
The entire resort is expected to create 1,100 jobs. An additional 50 employees are expected to be hired when the hotel opens. The Courtyard by Marriot opened on the Mohawk Harbor complex in October, in anticipation of the Rivers Casino opening.
Rivers Casino Resort Complex
Additional side projects are planned around the Rivers Casino development. Retail stores and office buildings are being built near the complex. Apartment buildings also are planned for the site.
At the price tag of $330 million, Rivers Casino is going to be a lot less ambitious than the integrated resort-casinos which have become the rage in the 21st century. At the same time, the layout around the gaming complex is going to resemble the integrated resort design, because the developers plan to make the casino a centerpiece for new construction in Schenectady.
In that way, the modern casino has a lot in common with the sports stadiums being built in major American cities these days. The idea makes sense for the communities in question, because the New York State Legislature planned for the casinos they licensed to be part of a wider economic rejuvenation for the regions they were placed in.
Oneida Indian National Casinos
The Oneida Indian Nation is concerned by the existence of the Rivers Casino. The OIN has operated the successful Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona since 1993. When the Rivers Casino was announced, the Oneida were concerned that the new development would hurt the revenues at Turning Stone.
To counter the development, OIN announced it would build a new casino in nearby Chittenango: the Yellow Brick Road Casino. The Yellow Brick Road is a less ambitious affair, more akin to a slots parlor than a full casino. The Oneida believed the satellite casino, placed so near Rivers Casino, would preserve some of their customer base in the region.
Since the casino was announced in 2015, other Native American tribes have been critical of the name of the casino, because it references Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz stories. Those Native American tribes who were critical pointed out that, during his lifetime, Frank L. Baum advocated for the genocide of the Sioux Nation.
Politics played a major role in the licensing of Rivers Casino and the other winners of the December 2015 licensing process, as it has with most casino license processes in American history.
December 2015 Licensing
The New York Gaming Commission chose a “siting panel” to decide on a new series of brick-and-mortar casinos. The state accepted licenses from any group willing to pay a $1 million application fee. Eventually, 17 different applicants filed papers, though one withdrew their application before the deadline. Thus, New York had 16 casino license applicants for its decision in December 2015.
The various casino companies and real estate developers competed to receive one of (up to) four casino licenses. The state was divided into three broad areas: the Catskills, the Finger Lakes, and the Albany region. No region could have more than 2 licenses, but the siting panel was not required to offer all four potential licenses.
Montreign and Del Lago Resorts
Eventually, three groups received licenses: Rivers Casino in Schenectady, Montreign Resort in Thompson (Sullivan County), and Del Lago Resort in Waterloo. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for the panel to reconsider granting the fourth license, Tioga Downs Racetrack was given a license to open a casino-style gaming parlor on the grounds of the track.
The Del Lago development faced a lawsuit from local residents based on environmental concerns, but that lawsuit was dismissed on August 22, 2016. With that obstacle cleared, Del Lago Resort is expected to open in the fall of 2017.
Montreign Casino is scheduled to open in spring 2018. Montreign is a development of Empire Resorts, its largest stockholder is the Malaysian multinational conglomerate, Genting Group. Genting Group is a global casino and leisure company, but it also owns oil platforms and banana plantations in Southeast Asia. Genting is building a $4 billion casino, Resorts World Las Vegas, which will be the biggest casino in the history of Las Vegas when it opens in 2019.
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