Casino to be proposed for Schenectady

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By Carina Sorrentino

Not to be announced until after elections in November, Schenectady may be home to a brand new Rivers Casino on the Mohawk.

It has been decided that a casino will be built in the Capitol Region after November; however the debate is out as to where exactly it will be.

The announcement is postponed until after elections to ensure that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not be taken at a bias by any of the areas that may not get the casino.

Options for the location include: Capitol View Casino based out of Saratoga, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Rensselaer, Howe Caverns Resort and Casino in Schoharie County or Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor on Erie Boulevard.

Each area, while within close proximity to one another, would benefit from a new attraction. However, each region also comes with its own opposition, according to the Times Union.

While the Town Board of East Greenbush permitted that the casino would be approved zoning if chosen for the project, residents have begun to voice their disapproval. Not only did the community organize against the project, but it has preemptively filed lawsuits should the casino be approved.

The Hard Rock option is tricky because residents feel that a casino right on top of Albany would be a contradictory move, as reported in the Times Union last week.

While Howe Caverns could use a boost in tourist traffic, it is possible that people would be uninterested in taking to the area for a combined day of cave exploration and then gambling.

At the moment, the most popular option appears to be a casino in Schenectady. While there are  individuals who are reluctant to support the project, the financial benefits for the area could be tremendous.

Schenectady, like many other cities across Upstate New York, falls into the category of a post-industrial society. At one point, the region was booming with business, with GE at its peak performance. Now, the area has fallen from its former glory and is popularly thought to need revamping.

The efforts to clean up Downtown Schenectady and improve the areas surrounding State Street and Jay Street have come a long way in the past decade. A casino could restore Schenectady to its former flourishing state.

The Galesi Group of Rotterdam has proposed the Schenectady casino in partnership with Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming.

Trepidations about the potential project regard the volatility of the Mohawk River and the concerns from Stockade District residents and local landlords.

The Mohawk River has a history of flooding, which has caused structural damage in previous years. This is a factor that will need to be taken into consideration upon construction.

The Stockade Historical District is known to be a quiet residential area with picturesque brownstones and a rich history. Residents may not be eager to welcome a large casino into their neighborhood.

However, the most pressing issue with the project comes from the Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change. While the group has not publicly taken a stance on the matter, some individual members have taken charge in expressing their concerns.

Head of the executive committee of SLIC Mohamed Hafez is worried that the casino would “ruin neighborhoods and make it more difficult for landlords to collect rent from tenants who squander money at the casino.”

Although this concern may be valid, the long-term economic benefits could potentially outweigh any short-term excitement exhibited by residents who are eager to spend their money at the attraction.

According to the Times Union, Proctors Theatre and other downtown groups are in support of the casino, as the casino’s ability to bring tourists to the area could ultimately benefit any other local attraction, restaurant or hotel.

Schenectady is also badly in need of greater employment opportunities. A casino would be able to provide jobs for hundreds of Schenectady residents.

Property taxes in the area are also quite high for residents, the Times Union has stated, and the revenue from a casino could help keep more money in taxpayers’ pockets.

Concerns about the casino exist, but the construction of the Rivers Casino could play a decisive role in revitalizing the community.

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