Rivers Casino in Schenectady Allowed Underage Gambling

Rivers Casino Underage Gambler Fines

Rivers Casino was fined in March 2017, but continues to dispute the fine in July 2018.

The owners of the Rivers Casino & Resort are disputing a report by the New York Gaming Commission that found the casino was at fault for allowing multiple underage persons access to the casino’s gaming floor this past year.

Brad Maione, a spokesman for the NY Gaming Commission, said regulators found the casino responsible for four violations involving underage gamblers. According to Maione, Rivers Casino failed to enforce the age limit gambling law for the state that prohibits any person under the age of 21 from being on the gambling floor.

The state Commission found, in one instance, that an underage visitor placed a bet on the gaming floor. The three other claims stated that an underage gambler managed to get past security officers at the entrances and onto the gaming floor, though it appears those individuals did not place bets.

March 2017 Underage Gambling Violation

According to Maione, the oldest allegation dates back to February 2017, not long after the casino’s opening. In March 2017, Rivers Casino was fined $6,000 after an underaged person got onto the gaming floor to gamble. The underage gambler won a $1,326 prize before his age was discovered.

Maione said the casino is disputing the penalty regarding regulations “permitting an underage patron on the gambling floor”. The Gaming Commission’s spokesman said New York regulators fine casinos for “permitting a person under 21 to make a wager at its facility.”

Fines start at $1,000 for a first offense, but with four violations in one year, Rivers Casino could be fined up to $25,000. Maione said the ongoing hearing which began in late June and will continue to July 25-26 is taking place at the states Gaming Commission headquarters in Schenectady. The hearing is open to the public.

John Donnelly Defends Rivers Casino

John Donnelly, an Atlantic City-based attorney, is representing the casino. He said in a brief statement that Rivers Casino is “defending against the allegations,” but said any comments would be inappropriate as the hearing is still in process.

Donnelly said, after all the witnesses have testified, the hearing examiner in the case will make a recommendation to the six commissioners. The NY Gaming Commission then will then decide whether to accept, reject, or revise the examiners findings.

Underage Gambling Is a Particular Concern

Brad Maione said the commissioners “take our role as regulators very seriously in insuring underage patrons are not on the gambling floor”. The spokesman said Rivers Casino is not the only operation in New York State with claims against them regarding underage gambling.

Due to public perceptions, casinos must take extra steps to assure minors cannot wager in a real money casino. Maione said it is a recognized problem in the gaming industry, “Just like buying alcohol or buying tobacco.”

Underage persons are prohibited from accessing the casino gaming floor except under a limited number of circumstances, such as to use a restroom. For any legal circumstance, the underage person is to be accompanied by casino staff.

The New York Gaming Commission is responsible for regulating all gaming activity for the state, such as horse racing, pari-mutuel wagering, Indian gaming, the state lottery, as well as video lottery terminals and charitable gaming.

Rivers Casino’s Rocky Start

Rush Street Gaming of Chicago owns and operates Rivers Casino, a $350 million facility. The casino’s 50,000-square-foot gambling floor has 66 table games and 1,150 slot machines, as well as a steakhouse and restaurant lounge.

The casino’s first year saw a rocky start. On top of the current allegations, Rivers Casino failed to reach their expected revenue by a large margin. Though the Rivers Casino and Resort surpassed the US$100 million mark in dollars gambled, the venue did not come close to achieving its projected revenue figures.

According to October 2017 revenue numbers, the casino achieved US$11.11 million from operations. The Gaming Commission disputed the revenue figures, saying, “Barely more than the $11.08 million gambled there in February — a month when the casino was open only 21 days.”

Casino Needs Time, Says City Councilwoman

Leesa Perazzo, president of the Schenectady City Council and chairwoman of the casino’s finance committee, said of the casino’s ownership: “They came in with what they felt were fair projections. But any new property is just that — new. It’s not even a year old. It’s going to take a while for it to hit its full stride. So far, I’ve been very happy with what I’m seeing.”

Gaming analysts understand that revenue growth with new facilities takes time, but such considerations are supposed to be baked into casino projections. The past year could be a result of the casino’s new systems and lack of training or experience with staff, but Rush Street Gaming has managed many gaming operations over the years, so many of the growing pains Rivers Casino has faced in its first 18 months should not be happening.