State bets on Schenectady casino proposal

ALBANY — A rubble-strewn brownfield off Erie Boulevard in Schenectady was chosen as the site for a Capital Region casino Wednesday, prompting loud applause at the announcement in Albany and tears in an office in Rotterdam.

The cheers were mostly from a group of people opposed to a competing proposal in East Greenbush. They were holding signs that read “Save East Greenbush,” which they changed later with a black marker to read “Saved East Greenbush.”

The roughly 50-strong Save East Greenbush contingent was seated directly behind a handful of people supporting a proposal at Howe Caverns in Schoharie County. As clapping continued, the Cobleskill residents in the first row remained silent.

At the same time, David Buicko, COO of the Galesi Group, developer of the Schenectady site, watched the announcement on a computer in his office with some local officials. He said the news “brought tears to my eyes.”

“I was really happy. It was happy tears,” Buicko said. “I am really passionate about this project, and it makes me so happy for Schenectady.”

A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at Proctors to tout the casino project at the former Alco site between Erie Boulevard and the Mohawk River.

The proposed Montreign Casino in Thompson, Sullivan County, and Lago Casino in Tyre, Seneca County, were also recommended by the board.

The Schenectady proposal was chosen by the state Gaming Facility Location Board over other proposals at Howe Caverns in Cobleskill, on Thompson Hill in East Greenbush and at de Laet’s Landing in Rensselaer. The next step is for the Gaming Commission to award a casino license after reviewing the project and background checks on the developer and operator are completed by state police. Officials said they expect that process to take about three months.

Board chairman Kevin Law said two significant factors that led to the decision favoring Schenectady was that Galesi already met requirements under the state Environmental Quality Review Act and that development would revitalize a former industrial site.

“The three selections we made all completed SEQRA,” Law said.

The Schenectady casino, Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, will be developed by the Galesi Group and operated by Rush Street Gaming of Chicago.

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