SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (WWLP) – A possible competitor for MGM Springfield opened its doors at noontime Wednesday. The $330-million Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, New York is now open to the public.
It’s a 50,000 square foot gaming space with more than 1,100 slot machines, nearly 70 tables and a 15 table poker room. There are bars, restaurants and a 10,000 square foot event hall. They’re also building a more than 150 room hotel that will open this summer.
This casino took just 13-months to open, and could keep customers from the Albany area away from MGM’s resort, which is under construction in Springfield. Now the question is how many casinos can the Northeast region support?
22News asked Shawn Panella, who lives in Schenectady, if he would be willing to travel to gamble. He replied, “Absolutely, and people should. New people like myself would visit a city like Springfield, Mass. and see what Springfield has to offer. They need something to bring people into the community and to give people a reason to come and visit your town.”
People are excited about 1,000 new jobs, and hope the casino can bring revenue and tourism into Schenectady, but the wider picture raises a question of market over saturation.
Casino officials said they’re far enough away from other casinos to survive. From western Massachusetts, it’s about an hour and 45 minute drive. Just a half hour longer than going from Springfield to the Connecticut casinos.
The Chairman of Rush Street Gaming, Neil Bluhm, told 22News their focus is local; “These are regional casinos. So Schenectady or Springfield for that matter are never going to become Las Vegas. And you don’t want it to become Las Vegas. You will get some ancillary out of market business but your primary driver is the local residents.”
The Rivers Casino cost $330-million to be built, while MGM Springfield will be $950-million. It’s about one third the price and half the size; MGM will have double the 50,000 square feet of gaming and double the parking. MGM will also have more hotel rooms, slots, table games, more restaurants, and retail space, which Rivers does not have.
As an Urban Casino, it’s taking MGM a lot longer because of the permit process for demolishing existing buildings. The Rivers General Manager Mary Cheeks admits they are glad to be open before MGM; “It’s actually a regional casino, but we look out of market as well. So we would like to enjoy some of that Springfield market until you open in the fall of 2018.”
As far as market saturation goes. Cheeks, who worked in Atlantic City, said most casinos in the Northeast are spread far enough apart to survive. The Rivers Casino is less than a half hour from Albany and about an hour and a half away from the nearest resort casino, Turning Stone.