Amsterdam council throws support behind Schenectady casino bid

09-17-2014

SCHENECTADY — The Amsterdam Common Council passed a resolution Tuesday supporting a proposed casino in Schenectady, looking to the project as an opportunity for jobs and revenue for the city and its residents.

The resolution passed unanimously without much discussion after Galesi Group chief operating officer David Buicko and Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen spoke of the benefits of the project.

“Schenectady and Amsterdam have been working together,” said Robert von Hasseln, Amsterdam’s director of community and economic development. “Anything we can do to strengthen our connection to Schenectady and their developers is a good idea. I wish the casino would have been in Amsterdam, but this is our next best bet.”

The proposed Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor is being pitched by the Rotterdam-based Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming of Chicago at the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard in Schenectady. The $450 million development would include a $330 million casino and hotel in addition to apartments, condominiums, townhouses and office and retail space.

“This is one of the toughest developments we’ve had to tackle,” said Buicko, who is spearheading the project, but he quickly added that it’s worth it because it will have a big impact on the region.

“We believe this project will have the most impact,” Buicko said. “And in terms of economic need, it’s there. It’s about creating jobs for our young kids. If we create another driver, we can help our kids and help the community.”

The council’s vote puts it at odds with the Montgomery County Legislature, which voted last week to support a casino and resort proposed at Howe Caverns in the town of Cobleskill in neighboring Schoharie County. Gillen said Amsterdam and Schenectady have a lot in common beyond the fact that the two cities are within a 20-minute drive of each other.

“Our communities are really tied together,” he said. “It’s a very exciting project, and we have gotten a commitment from the operators of the casino to utilize your excellent training center here at the Amsterdam Riverfront Center.”

The casino is projected to create 1,200 permanent jobs, and Gillen said Amsterdam residents would fill some of those positions. He added that training for those jobs could also be held in Amsterdam.

“We think this will be a great project for both of our communities,” Gillen said. “We’re just so close, it makes all of the sense in the world to have our two communities work together.”

Buicko stressed that if Schenectady is awarded a casino license by the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board, Rush Street would be looking to work with Amsterdam with or without the city’s support.

“We would love to work with your community,” he said, “but we would work with you no matter what. You’re very important. And job-wise, we’re looking to move out west.”