Commission releases more Schenectady casino application details

SCHENECTADY — Details about the Schenectady casino proposal — including materials used for decorating — were released Thursday, two months after the concept was announced without any specifics.

The Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, proposed by the Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming, will have a casino with “rich warm tones,” a hotel “such as a Four Points by Sheraton” and restaurants likely run by the Mallozzi Group.

“The overall architectural style is one that should be exciting for a patron to approach and partake in, but not overpowering for the neighborhood,” the casino application states. “The intent is to create localized energy both at the exterior and interior of the casino.”

The state Gaming Commission uploaded almost all of the applications it received last month from developers proposing casino projects across upstate New York. They were taken offline hours later due to technical issues but are expected to be back up today.

The casino in Schenectady is being pitched for the former Alco factory site — now called Mohawk Harbor — along Erie Boulevard, next to the Mohawk River. It would house 1,150 slot machines, 54 table games and 12 poker tables.

The casino would also include a steakhouse, entertainment lounge, banquet facility and large patio overlooking the river. It is projected to employ 1,070 people with a payroll of about $40 million.

Adjacent to the casino would be a 150-room hotel operated by BBL Hospitality that would create a projected 89 jobs with a payroll of $1.9 million. Rush plans to package hotel rooms with tickets to Proctors, the ballet and symphony orchestra and local museums.

“Rivers Casino is not anticipated to negatively impact any cultural institution in Schenectady,” the application says. “Further, some may benefit by increased visitation to the downtown area, particularly Proctors [t]heater.”

Rush is currently in discussions with the Mallozzi Group to operate the casino’s banquet facility and marketplace. The marketplace is expected to serve pizza, burgers and sandwiches.

The casino also plans to establish a “long-lasting partnership” with Schenectady County Community College, which is less than a mile from the site. The college has degree programs in casino and gaming management, hotel and restaurant management and tourism and hospitality.

“The project’s casino, hotel and banquet hall will provide invaluable new internship and employment opportunities for students,” according to the application. “SCCC’s training programs are uniquely designed to help unemployed persons train for new careers at Rivers Casino & Resort.”

Aside from its impact on business, the casino is also expected to generate millions in revenue for the city, county and schools. Gaming taxes are estimated to total $81.5 million, with 10 percent — $8.1 million — given to the city and county and another 10 percent to surrounding counties. The tax rate for the host community is calculated to be 3.7 percent.

Sales tax is expected to total more than $2.4 million, with the county receiving nearly $1.4 million. Property taxes for the casino are estimated to total $4 million, with more than half going to the Schenectady City School District.

The application lists its location within the floodplains of the Mohawk River as a possible geological or structural defect. Project plans include widening the river to provide for flood control and raising the elevation of the site above the floodplain.

“Being situated in the floodplain, the site has flooded in the past when subjected to uncommon rain events,” the application states.

But according to a Floodplain Development Hydraulics Report included in the application, the project will not adversely impact the floodplain. The study was done in February 2013.

Changes along the river will also provide for a harbor and river walk. A link will be made to the Mohawk Hudson Hike-Bike Trail to provide direct access to downtown Schenectady.

Not cited as a potential defect is a small nuclear reactor located on the property that is operated by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. About 50 students and researchers work at the lab, which is intended only for research experiments and operator training.

In renderings released by the Galesi Group last month, the reactor was disguised as a lighthouse, but in the site plan provided for the casino application, the reactor disappeared completely from the site.

Rush argues Schenectady is the best choice for a casino in the Capital Region — rather than proposed sites in Amsterdam, Cobleskill, East Greenbush and Rensselaer — because of the city’s high taxes and struggling school district. The application cites a 2013 report by the Department of Development that emphasizes Schenectady’s declining tax base and increase in property taxes. The report also points to spending cuts at Schenectady’s schools.

“Schenectady is a well-qualified candidate for fulfilling the goal of the Gaming Act,” the application says, “to enhance the financial condition of localities in the state that have suffered from economic hardships.”

Galesi Group is looking to start construction eight months after selection of a casino license by the Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board in the fall. The casino would then be up and running within 24 months.

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