Rush Street must think we are all pretty stupid

. . . or, don’t care about the facts or taxpayers

emptypockets Rush Street Gaming’s billionaire CEO/Owner Neil Bluhm is back walking the halls of the New York State Legislature trying to get a tax break for their Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor. [See “Schenectady casino seeks lower tax rates: Tax credit floated as relief” (Albany Times Union, by David Lombardo, March 29, 2019); “Rivers Casino takes another crack at a tax cut: Schenectady facility says highest tax rate among New York casinos puts it at a disadvantage” (Schenectady Gazette, March 28, 2019)].

openpalmgThey are again whining about the unfairness of the gaming tax structure, and have bolstered their specious arguments with a flood of misleading statements about their new competitor, MGM Springfield. They are also acting as if an Advertising Allowance tax credit is not a tax break. [follow-up (April 14, 2019): According to the Sunday Gazette, Rivers Casino just had its best month ever, but continues its whining and seeking tax breaks.]

Below is the slightly edited text of an email that I sent to members of the media this afternoon (Friday, March 29), in the hope that the press will dilute Mr. Bluhm’s Casino Chicanery with facts, and that our Legislators will care about the facts. It has been supplemented with arguments against the Marketing Allowance.

MGMSpringfRevs . . Left: MGM Springfield Tax Revenue Report . . 

Email Message

Rush Street Gaming is again seeking tax cuts from Albany for its Schenectady Rivers Casino, using misleading information and half-truths, plus a boatful of whining. 

 
Here are the facts:
When it applied for a casino license in July 2014, Rush Street Gaming knew:
  • The gaming revenue tax on a Capital Region casino, as stated in the 2013 enabling legislation,  would be 45% on Slots and 10% on all other gaming revenue, with lower rates on slots in other Regions (that had less population density, fewer economic resources, and more competitors, i.e., racinos, Indian and Canadian casinos).
  • MGM Springfield had received its license in June 2013 and was planning to build a spectacular casino resort on a bend of the Connecticut River, in the historic and cultural center of Springfield.
  • The gaming tax in Massachusetts would be 25% on all casino gaming revenue proceeds (slots and table games).
  • There might be a second full casino in western Massachusetts (but that has not happened).
 
Rivers says that this unfair rate differential has lowered its Slots income, however:
  • In the six full months since MGM Springfield has been in operation (Sept. 2018 through February 2019), Slot GGR at Rivers Casino has increased 10.4% over the same months the prior year,  from $46,090,049 to $50,902,095. See Monthly Reports
Rivers says its unfair tax burden makes it impossible to fairly compete with MGM Springfield, and they need a slots tax rate below 40%, but:
 

From Sep 2018 through Feb. 2019, Rivers paid approx. $24 million in Gaming Tax, that equals a blended 34% gaming tax on its Total GGR. See Rivers Casino Monthly Financial Reports. While, from Sept. 2018 through Feb. 2019, MGM Springfield paid approximately $33 million in Gaming Tax, 25% of Total GGR.  See MassGaming Revenue Report on MGM SpringfieldHOWEVER, 

red check Rush Street is not mentioning that, under its Host Community Agreement with Springfield: 

  • MGM Resorts paid upfront and advance payments, totaling $15 million to the City of Springfield during the construction phase including pre-payment of taxes for general city purposes as well as:
    • $2.5 million to purchase equipment and to provide training for police, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.
    • $1 million to redevelop Riverfront Park.
  • Big$Jackpot Once opening for business, MGM Springfield must make more than $25 million in annual payments to the City. This includes $17.6 million in lieu of tax payments as well as, among other things:
    • $2.5 million to fund operating and other costs for police, firefighters, emergency medical services and education.
    • $2.5 million for a Community Development Fund to be administered by the city to support early childhood education, higher education, libraries, health initiatives, and the betterment of the city and its residents.
  • And, other $50 million coming up: Just last week, MGM Springfield reported to the Mass. Gaming Commission  that it intends to invest in the proposed $55 million redevelopment of the long-vacant Court Square hotel building in downtown Springfield as part of an obligation to build housing within one-half mile of its resort casino. See WAMC Report.

See the MassGaming 4-page Summary of Springfield HCA, for the amazing array of extra obligations MGM Springfield has undertaken while Rush Street just pays what it has to pay under the 2013 Legislation. 

exclamationpoint
 It should be clear that the Massachusetts gaming tax structure intentionally took into account the obligation of any casino applicant to negotiate an HCA or Mitigation Agreement with the host municipality, with its consequent large financial obligations over and above the State gaming revenue tax.
.
RIVERS CASINO never entered into an HCA with the City of Schenectady, as Mayor Gary McCarthy refused to negotiate for one, as did Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen. It paid no upfront money during construction, and no economic development funds for the community. (see our posting “answering Mayor McCarthy on HCAs“, June 28, 2015)
  • NYS Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (Dem., Mt Vernon), the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, has been insisting that Rivers Casino offered to pay an “exorbitant” amount over the mandated gambling revenue tax, and should now be given a break. However, Rivers pays exactly the amount called for in the 2013 Legislation, under which it would have to pay more if it had offered to do so as part of its Application. Instead, The Report and Findings of the New York Gaming Facility Location Board (Feb. 27, 2015, at 261) specifically states in the section captioned “Maximizing revenues received by the state and localities. (§ 1320(1)(b))”, that:  “Rivers does not propose a supplemental tax payment or increased license fee.”
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MGMSpringfield-rend2 . . . MGMSpringfield-render
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above: the $960 million MGM Springfield Casino Resort; below: the $340 million Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor (front entrance on R, rear and hotel on L)
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MHrailing14Oct2018 . . Rivers08Feb2018

 

WHY DO PEOPLE TAKE BUSES TO MGM Springfield?

  • CasinoBusTripMRM Resorts spent $960 million to build a spectacular, true destination casino, in a bustling, interesting neighborhood
  • Rush Street, after bragging that it builds spectacular international destinations in its Applications, spent merely $320 million at Mohawk Harbor, and has produced, at best, a homely, mediocre regional casino, which targets and predominantly attracts local residents and perhaps those living within a 60-mile radius
  • By failing to insist on a true destination casino, Schenectady’s Mayor, City Council majority and Planning Commission, and the County’s Metroplex and Legislature, condemned our City to a mediocre Casino that will be constantly failing to meet its bloated projections and wanting tax breaks. See, e.g., our posting “casino choices in Upstate New York: who will choose Schenectady?” (January 19, 2017)

920x920 Exactly a year ago, we were in the same situation, waiting to see if the rush to the Legislative Budget Deadline (April 1), would bring with it a budget that included casino tax breaks. See “bum’s rush needed” (March 28, 2018). We were pleased at the time that Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not favor casino tax breaks. Also, the Gazette Editorial Board wrote a piece entitled “Editorial: No state financial deals for casinos”  In addition, on Sunday March 30, 2018, the Times Union editorial board weighed in with “Editorial: Say no to casino subsidies“, which included the nifty illustration by Jeff Boyer that is at the head of this paragraph.

SteckAtRiversCasino

Phil Steck at Rivers Casino

 Marketing Allowance? For some reason, we are supposed to believe that a Marketing Allowance is not a tax break, although it would reduce River Casino’s gaming tax burden by 10% of the Casino’s marketing expenses. Last year, we noted on this topic that: “In the TU article “Casino seeks state help in marketing” (Sept. 29, 2018), Assemblyman Phil Steck is far from elegant defending Rivers Casino request for a 10% marketing allowance reduction in its gaming tax obligations to the State”:

“It’s not saying, ‘State, come in and give us money’; it’s saying, ‘We believe we need to expand the market for our product, we need an allowance for marketing,’ and I think that’s a reasonable position for a business to take,” said Steck, a Democratic lawmaker from Colonie, of the request by the Schenectady casino, which is located on the former Alco site on Erie Boulevard.

“What they’re saying is, ‘If we spend 10 cents on marketing instead of giving you 100 cents on that dollar, we’re going to give you 90 cents,’ and that makes a lot of sense because if the total amount of revenue expands as a result of their marketing effort, the state’s going to make more money anyway and so will the city,” Steck said.

Steck-Golub-McCarthyatCasino Assemblyman Steck apparently still supports such a Marketing Allowance, if it brings in more revenue, but does not demonstrate how that would happen.  As I noted last year in correspondence with Mr. Steck, Rivers Casino already does a lot of advertising and marketing (a rather basic expense for doing business in a capitalist market), and if doing more would increase its revenue in any way, it would be doing just that. Moreover:

  1. DSCF4456Much of Rivers’ marketing appears to be aimed at bringing in non-gambling customers to the Casino complex and Mohawk Harbor. That business (drinking, dining, conventions, fight shows, concerts) does not add to Rivers’ gaming tax obligations (45% on slots, 10% on table games and poker). Instead, it merely increases profits for the Casino and its business associates, and generates the much lower taxes based on food and similar sales taxes (often “cannibalizing” the business of other local businesses).
  2. DisoverySchyCasino.jpg Rivers Casino is already a major beneficiary of the County’s Tourism Bureau and Discovery Schenectady programs for gaming and convention programs.
  3. MohHarb30ftPylonMohawk Harbor was allowed to put a giant shopping-mall style 30′ high by 18′ wide pylon sign, that looms over Erie Blvd. at a location that normally would permit only a 7′ high sign under our Zoning Code. In permitting the sign, after literal begging for the favor by Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen, the Board of Zoning Appeals reversed a decision it had made just weeks before. The pylon sign contains a large LCD screen that changes message every 8 seconds; safety-conscious cities and planners discourage such distractions so close to a busy intersection. Isn’t this quite enough favoritism at the expense of the public interest for Mohawk Harbor and its Casino tenant?

Phil Steck balked when I called him “the Assemblyman from Mohawk Harbor” last year. But, I cannot imagine the normally-thoughtful Mr. Steck offering even his current conditional support for the Marketing Allowance, were Mohawk Harbor not in his Assembly District.

 

. . share this post with this URL: http://tinyurl.com/WhiningRivers

RiversCasino-eastentrance

. . many locals believe this northeast Harbor Way entrance to Rivers Casino, with its utility bollards, parking garage, and Hotel, is the more attractive (and far less tacky) view of the Casino . . 

Slots and Problem Gambling Prevention

SCHENECTADY HAS A SLOTS GAMBLING PROBLEM

Problem gambling” means gambling behaviors that result in serious negative consequences to the gambler, and his or her family and friends, employer, or community. It can affect people in any age, racial, or economic group, but youth (kids; adolescents and college students), and senior citizens are thought to be particularly at-risk.

MGM Resorts “GameSense” Page

The Problem Gambling Awareness Month theme for March 2019 is “Awareness Plus Action.” This post continues our campaign to make Schenectady Aware of its growing Slots Gambling Problem and to suggest what action is needed, and by whom (with a compilation below of useful resources).

This website’s posting on March 11, 2019 repeats the cautionary message that the increase in gaming revenue at the Schenectady Rivers Casino in its 2nd Year of operation was totally generated from slots, with Slots play up 14.7%, but Table Games and Poker play both showing a reduction from Rivers’ first year of operation. The trend continues in the weeks since the Casino’s 2nd Anniversary: Revenue numbers in February through mid-March 2019 show Slots up 12% and Table Games down over 2.3% from the same weeks in 2018. [See our posting “Slotsification on the Mohawk“, August 13, 2018, for an introduction to the topic, and the coining of the word Slotsification.]

As a community, we should be concerned that only slots, the most addictive form of casino gambling, is increasing at Rivers Casino. Bean counters and economic development cheerleaders looking at the ripple effects of the Casino might also worry that Rivers Casino, despite its Marina & Amphitheater and the Landing Hotel, may not be attracting a significant number of medium-to-high-rollers, with their extra tourist dollars.

 Increased revenues from Slots undoubtedly means an increase in the risk of Problem Gambling and gambling addiction in our community, with all of the resultant damage to the gamblers, their families and friends, employers, and our entire society. (See our March 2, 2016 posting for more on the negative effects of problem gambling; and see “Foss: Increase in casino revenue comes with social costs” (Sunday Gazette, Aug. 5, 2018); and “Foss: More problem gamblers seeking treatment (Gazette, Jan. 13, 2018).

This added hazard for Schenectady is especially serious because slots players are likely to be predominately local residents, and from more vulnerable groups such as older and poorer patrons.  In assessing just how damaging the slotsification trend might be, It would be useful to know the demographics of the increase in slots play, and to ascertain whether it corresponds with more patrons playing slots or the same number or fewer players spending more time on the slot machines. Unlike last year, when Rivers Casino announced in the first week of February 2018 the figures for the number of patrons in 2017, the number of patrons at Rivers in 2018 has not yet been announced as of the last week of March.

AddictionByDesign-Schüll-Cover A good explanation of how/why slots are so addictive can be found in the New York Times article Slot Machines Are Designed to Addict” (October 10, 2013). It was written by Natasha Dow Schüll, and anthropologist and the author of Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas” (Princeton University Press, 2013). Her book’s message is described in the article “Did you know these 7 surprises about slots” (Psychology Today, Nov. 4, 2012), by social psychologist Susan K. Perry, PhD, who notes that:

Companies don’t seek to create addicts, they say, but they do admit to designing machines that compel consumers to gamble longer, faster, and more. Addiction is the result.

Among the “seven surprises” about slots that Dr. Perry lists, are (emphases added):

  • Machines with buttons and credits, instead of pull handles and coins, allow hundreds of games, rather than a few games, to be played in a minute.
  • Addiction can happen quickly with video gambling devices, in a year rather than three or more with other forms of gambling.
  • Modern slot machines are designed precisely to do what they do: take your money by putting you into a glassy-eyed trance so you won’t walk away while you have a single dollar or credit left.
  • Coincidence? It may be merely a coincidence that this is happening after Rivers Casino operated for a year in Schenectady, but “Studies by Brown University psychiatrist Robert Breen have found that individuals who regularly play slots become addicted three to four times faster (in one year, versus three and a half years) than those who play cards or bet on sports.”  From Slot Machines Are Designed to Addict” (New York Times, October 10, 2013, by Natasha Dow Schüll). 

 AWARENESS & ACTION? 

 With the awareness that slots play is growing in Schenectady and is likely to increase the incidence of problem gambling and gambling addiction in our community, what action can we take to minimize or at least reduce the negative effects? While I applaud increased State funding for the treatment of those suffering from gambling addiction, it seems obvious that any good faith and effective effort to deal with Problem Gambling must focus far more on Prevention, not merely Treatment. Prevention requires active education about gambling (from the odds of winning, to risks of addiction, and the signs of trouble in an individual, to the differences between safe and risky gambling behavior) and intentional cultivation of a community attitude that encourages Safe Gambling Practices and discourages Risky Gambling Behavior. We must stop treating our Casino as somehow glamorous and suggesting that patrons are performing a civic duty by helping to make the Casino successful.

In the four years since Rush Street Gaming was selected to operate the Capital Region’s commercial casino in Schenectady, its actions at Rivers Casino and the activities and programs of our State and local governmental entities (or their absence), make it clear:

We cannot look to either the Casino nor Government to provide programs that will effectively arm the public with information and advice on making casino gambling safer and avoiding high-risk gambling. Their actions to date focus almost totally on persons who already show the signs of a gambling addiction problem. Groups and individuals throughout our Community must act to protect ourselves.

WHY NOT RELY ON THE CASINO’s PROMISES? The answer seems too obvious to belabor, but the words and actions of Rivers Casino and its owners seem to confirm our skepticism. Rush Street Gaming declared in its Application to the NYS Racing Commission for a Schenectady casino license that “the existence of gaming at Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in prevalence rates in the local area,” due to funding for treatment programs, and the prior existence of slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut.  With that assertion, Rush Street denied that increased proximity and access to casino-style gambling will increase the prevalence of problem gambling in our community. [For a contrary view based on studies, see Why Casinos Matter, by the Council on Casinos of the Institute for American Values, (at 18-19), stating that the prevalence of problem gambling doubles within a ten-mile radius of a casino.]

At a symposium on problem gambling held at Schenectady County Community College in March 2017, the Rush Street representative was excited about their efforts to promote responsible gambling, but those efforts apparently revolve around helping the staff identify underage persons, problem gamblers and drinkers, and policing the state’s mandated self-exclusion program, and merely track the requirements imposed by the NYS Gaming Commission. The photo at the head of this paragraph shows a power-point image by Rivers Casino at the 2017 symposium. It says they want their patrons to be there “to simply have fun”, and declares that “We do not want people who cannot gamble responsibly to play at our casino.” Yet, we could find nothing to support that sentiment on the floor of the Casino, nor at their website or Facebook Page, beyond the obligatory caption “Must be 21+. Gambling Problem? Call 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369)”.

MGM Resorts Facebook PGAM post

Indeed, as of today, March 27th, I have found no mention of Problem Gambling Awareness Month at Rivers Casino itself nor on its Facebook page and web site.

In contrast, the MGM Resorts Facebook Page has a posting about Problem Gambling Awareness Month 2019, “Learn about GameSense and Responsible Gambling this March“, with a video introducing its GameSense program (March 4, 2019). [see image to the left] You can find more about GameSense and the MGM Resorts efforts below.

The MGM GameSense program appears to be the first of its kind to be presented by a commercial casino group. Can we expect Rivers Casino to adopt a similar approach to problem gambling prevention? Our Casino has been consistently handled with kid gloves and favored status by City and County government and our business leaders. With no pressure coming from local leadership, it seems unlikely that Rivers Casino will act against its financial interests and make any significant effort at actually preventing problem gambling. As stated in Why Casinos Matter (emphases added):

image by Jeff Boyer/Times Union

Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base.  Problem gamblers account for 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues, according to studies conducted over the past decade or so. This evidence contradicts claims by gambling lobbyists that their industry wants to attract only those customers who play casually “for fun.” Indeed, if casinos had to rely on such casual customers, they would not long survive. A Canadian study found that casual players comprised 75 percent of players but contributed only 4 percent of net gambling revenue. The casinos’ real money comes from problem gamblers.

In attempting to explain why SugarHouse, a Philadelphia Casino also owned by Rush Street Gaming, had allowed a person on its Self-Exclusion List to gamble for 72 hours at SugarHouse,

Rosemarie Cook, vice president for gaming at SugarHouse, responded that many customers return day after day. “So it’s not unusual in our casino to see somebody the next day and the day after that and the day after that,” she said. “It’s a local market.”  [See “Policing gamblers who can’t police themselves isn’t easy” (Philadelphia Inquirer, by Jennifer Lin, September 9, 2013)]

Ms. Cook is describing exactly the kind of casino patronage at her Rush Street Gaming casino that is most likely to nurture gambling addiction, while bringing in the largest payoff for the casino. There is no reason to believe that such day-after-day local patrons are not fueling the slotsification of Rivers Casino. And, no reason to believe Rivers Casino wants to change that Schenectady scenario.

COMPARE RIVERS CASINO’s APPROACH to PROBLEM GAMBLING (and Slots) WITH THAT of MGM RESORTS:

RIVERS CASINO at MOHAWK HARBOR:

  • On its FACEBOOK PAGENo mention of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, at least not from Feb. 23, 2019 through March 27, 2019.
  • At its main website? There is a very minimalist Responsible Gaming page.  It states: “Rush Street Gaming is committed to make responsible gaming a priority and takes this issue very seriously. While many are able to gamble responsibly, there is a small portion of the population who can develop a serious, sometimes uncontrollable gambling problem. This can affect persons of any age, income, gender or race at any time.

“To protect them and others affected by their behavior, Rivers Casino established a set of policies and guidelines which deal with issues such as underage gambling, problem gambling, responsible marketing, and improper use or abuse of alcohol.”

    • The Rivers Responsible Gaming page has no direct information on responsible or safe gambling practices. And, given the vagueness of the reference, the public may not realize that the linked “policies and guidelines” document is not merely for internal company use, but offers a list of Ten Warning Signs of problem/addictive gambling, with the advice: “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call the following 24-hour confidential national hotlines and/or websites:” [with a few resources listed for those needing help]
    • Its Slots WebPage is entirely a promotion of their “slot player’s paradise”, with no mention of responsible gaming or information on how slots work.
  • On-site at the Casino: I gave myself a tour or Rivers Casino on March 13, and could find no signs or posters or brochures, etc., about Problem Gambling Month.

MGM RESORTS:

  • MGM Resorts Facebook Page has a posting about Problem Gambling Awareness Month 2019, with a video introducing its GameSense program: “Learn about GameSense and Responsible Gambling this March” (March 4, 2019). The accompanying text says, “To help our guests make informed decisions at the casino, we offer responsible gaming tools and resources through our GameSense program.” GameSense is the first program of its kind, in partnership with the National Council of Problem Gambling, and promotes a “positive and safe gaming experience”. The goal: to “support and encourage each other to help ensure everyone has a good time while gambling.” The video reminds casino players: “It is important to set a budget, set a time limit, and no one should gamble more than they can afford to lose.
  • On its main MGM Resorts website, you can find its GameSense Guide to Slots, in addition to a helpful Responsible Gaming page.
  •  At the top of the MGM Slots WebPage is a link to “Tips on How to Play, and Win, at Video Slot Machines“. Up front it tells you, “Video slots work completely at random, nothing is predetermined, there are no patterns in payouts and the reel spins freely. . . Sure, everyone has a strategy for finding the one loose slot that will pay out more than the others, but in reality, it’s all up to chance.” The 8 Tips incorporate advice on setting a budget, limiting time, not chasing losses [that is, continue to play to try to win back losses], taking breaks, etc. Tip #8 is a reminder to “Have Fun”, with the advice, “ If you’ve run out of luck for one day, just move on and come back another day to try again. Make it enjoyable and entertaining!”, and includes a link to its responsible gaming page.
  • Inside MGM Resorts casinos: GameSense signs, reading materials, and advisors.

. . Below: GameSense Tips. Six common-sense ways to practice low-risk gambling to keep gambling fun (click on image for a larger version) . . 

WHAT ABOUT GOVERNMENT EFFORTS? When government entities and politicians bring a casino into an urban setting, they have a major obligation to help prevent problem and addictive gambling, for the sake of the entire community. Do New York State and Schenectady County and City have a strong incentive to combat the Rivers Casino Slotsification? We doubt it, despite Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul stating in May 2018:

“With this annual commitment in state funding, we are working to ensure a balance between new gaming options and an increase in education about addiction. We don’t only want to treat individuals struggling with addiction, but prevent people from becoming addicted and educate New Yorkers about the issue across the State.”

[Lt. Gov. Hochul’s remarks refer to added funding for Problem Gambling Awareness and Education that was announced simultaneously by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS):Click here for our coverage of the OASAS Announcement]

More realistically, the monograph “Poverty and Casino Gambling in Buffalo” (Center for the Public Good, January 19, 2011) succinctly states the reality and context [quoting Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission]:

“any trend away from slot machines, which are the most lucrative form of casino gambling, would hurt the state’s revenues from casinos.

Our City Hall and County Legislature are banking on major tax relief that is based on the size of Casino revenues. Thus, for reasons very similar to those of the Casino, we have not been able to count on local government to seriously recognize the imminent growth of Schenectady’s problem gambling problem and to combat it with a preventive approach. A minor example: almost every agenda for our City Council Meetings lists Resolutions and Proclamations recognizing all sorts of groups and issues, but it has never proclaimed March (or any other month) as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy never demanded a host community or damage mitigation agreement from Rush Street Gaming, when considering whether to approve their Application to the Casino Location Board. As a result, the Mayor and his Administration, along with Metroplex and County Government, never did or commissioned any independent research or investigation that could be used to rebut the glib claims of Rush Street and Galesi Group that a casino would have no significant added costs or negative impact on the City, or area. The research and warnings of a group like Stop the Schenectady Casino were simply ignored, as was the example given by other host cities. Instead, City Hall insisted there would be no negative impact from a Schenectady Casino. (See our posting on The Mayor and HCAs.)

Therefore, it is not a surprise that neither the City nor County of Schenectady has played any active role to help combat Problem Gambling, nor that State-funded efforts have not taken a more holistic and preventative approach. As welcome as current state-funded, public-oriented problem gambling awareness programs may be, they are they are far too focused on people already feeling the damaging effects of problem gambling in their lives. E.g., Self-exclusion programs, Hot Lines, in-patient beds, counseling services. [See image to the right.]

Thus, a media and billboard program using the funding announced by OASAS in May 2018 uses the slogan “You’re not Alone”. That sentiment clearly is aimed at persons already struggling with the negative effects of problem gambling, not at casual players.

Similarly, the NYS Gaming Commission announced a promising new program in its Press Release of March 4, 2019, captioned “NYS Gaming Commission Marks National Problem Gambling Awareness Month with First-of-its-Kind Public-Private Collaboration“. The effort includes a new 15-second video PSA announcement and 30-second radio PSA announcement, that are “Slated to run at no cost on commercial TV, radio, and social media,” plus a widespread postering campaign, and custom lottery-related PGAM messaging.

But, the new program’s initial efforts are disappointing, in that they continue the focus on people already struggling with gambling addiction issues. Thus, here are the crossword-style core image and caption used in the PSA and posters, etc.:

 . .

 Education-Prevention Trumps Treatment. Our hope had been that community education and prevention activities might be in operation prior to the Casino’s opening, in order to help inoculate the population of Schenectady against the anticipated tsunami of publicity for the Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, with its resulting Casino Fever. As expected, in addition to the Casino’s own advertising and promotions, publicity for the Casino has included government and media cheerleading, as casino “gaming” is promoted as a normal, glamorous, and even civic-spirited activity.

Our goal has not been to urge the general public to avoid or boycott the Casino, but instead to help create a healthy, informed attitude toward casino gambling that places it into the low-risk category of casual entertainment and recreation, rather than a high-risk habit leading down the path of problem, disordered, or pathological gambling.  Unfortunately, over the past few years, our local government leaders have not stepped up to put Problem Gambling Awareness programs into place. While a large percentage of our population has proven resistant to Casino Fever, or suffered only a brief case of the malady, it appears that Rivers Casino has attracted and kept enough slots-oriented patrons to make the growth of problem gambling disorders in our local populace a major concern.  This makes “inoculation” or prophylactic measures even more important to safeguard the as yet un-infected, among current and future slots players, and other casino users.

 The requested governmental programs never materialized, and perhaps more discouraging, there was no noticeable pressure or even subtle outcry by the non-profit sector or relevant actors in the for-profit healthcare industry, for such problem gambling efforts. Instead, major social events have been held with gambling themes at Rivers Casino, and two leading members of the healthcare industry in Schenectady, Ellis Hospital and MVP, actually sponsored Table Game Lessons at Rivers Casino [note the sponsors at the bottom of the ad to the left, and see our related posting]

Question: WHAT ACTIONS ARE REALISTICALLY AVAILABLE TO PREVENT, NOT JUST TREAT, PROBLEM GAMBLING?  Answer: WE NEED A COMMITMENT FROM ALL SEGMENTS OF OUR COMMUNITY TO UTILIZE OR CREATE RESOURCES THAT FOSTER LOW-RISK, SAFE GAMBLING PRACTICES.

  1. OUR PRIVATE SECTOR, both for-profit (especially healthcare, and the helping and counseling professions), and not-for-profit (e.g., civic groups, senior centers, schools at every level, faith communities, and neighborhood associations, perhaps aided by the Schenectady Foundation), must step up to “inoculate” against Casino Fever and Slots Addiction, with helpful information and practical advice, to nurture healthy attitudes about gambling, especially casino gambling, using a variety of means and media aimed at all segments of the community.
  2. SAFER/LOW-RISK gambling practices must be encouraged, and HIGH-RISK practices discouraged. Examples are given below.
  3. Casino Gambling should be like any other form of leisure activity and entertainment:
    1. pursued for fun and relaxation, an occasional outing, where you play for fun, not to get rich;
    2. using your leisure budget, and aware what you are likely to spend at each visit (as at the theater, a sports event, or a restaurant), with bugeted losses the price of the night’s entertainment, and any wins a nice bonus. 
  4. Ripple Effect: The lessons and thus the benefits of a Safe Gambling Campaign will apply to all other forms of gambling in our community, such as Lottery and Sports Betting.

GOOD NEWS: A Treasure Trove/Jackpot of relevant, interesting, and sometimes even fun, materials, in many media (posters, brochures, videos, billboards, tv and radio and internet PSAs), and aimed at many audiences, already exists. It is easy to find online, and available for free download, often with free hardcopy versions, too.

The following are resources worth checking out, either to use them directly, modify them for local use, or as inspiration for some Schenectady Creativity.

PROBLEM GAMBLING CANADA

This thoughtful, well-constructed, nonjudgmental site has much to offer individuals, families, and communities dealing with problem gambling issues. See ProblemGambling.ca

An excellent example is this list of factors involved in

Low Risk and Harmful Gambling

Not all gambling is a problem. Gambling may be low risk, or it may be harmful.

Low-risk gambling means you:

    • Limit how much time and money you spend gambling
    • Accept your losses, and don’t try to win them back
    • Enjoy winning, but know it happened by chance
    • Balance gambling with other fun activities
    • Don’t gamble to earn money or pay debts
    • Don’t gamble when your judgment is impaired by alcohol or other drugs
    • Never borrow money or use personal investments or family savings to gamble
    • Don’t gamble to escape from your problems or feelings
    • Don’t hurt your job, health, finances, reputation or family through your gambling

Harmful gambling means you have started to:

    • Lie about your gambling or keep it a secret
    • Lose track of time and play for longer than you meant to
    • Feel depressed or angry after gambling
    • Spend more money than you planned, or more than you can afford
    • Ignore work and family responsibilities because of gambling
    • Borrow money or use household money to gamble
    • “Chase your losses” to try to win back your money
    • Believe that gambling will pay off in the end
    • See gambling as the most important thing in your life
    • Use gambling to cope with your problems or to avoid things
    • Have conflicts with family and friends over gambling
    • Ignore your physical and emotional health because of gambling.

ProblemGambling.org/ca has many online self-help tools.

Smart.Play is a website created by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), a provincial Crown Corporation that conducts and manages province-wide lotteries, casinos, and slot facilities. As a Crown Corporation, it is fully owned by the Ontario Provincial Government. It presents information to fulfill its Pledge to Players:

  1. WE PLEDGE TO COMMUNICATE HOW GAMES WORK

    To be clear, straightforward and offer you the relevant facts.

  2. WE PLEDGE TO OFFER YOU KNOWLEDGE YOU CAN USE

    To guide you – as a new or experienced player – with advice and tools on how to set a game plan that helps you keep gambling as a positive entertainment option.

  3. WE PLEDGE TO KEEP IT FUN

    To show that smart, healthy play habits are engaging and worth your time.

  4. WE PLEDGE TO BE THERE WHEN YOU NEED US

    To listen, respond and offer assistance for getting help if gambling stops being fun.

Play.Smart has information on Table Games and Slots, with material on How to Play, Odds, Strategies, and Etiquette, for each game. Including a series of entertaining videos. Its SLOTS webpages have quite a bit of useful information, explaining how the machines work, what payback and pay-tables are, and more. Here’s advice to Start with a Game Plan (click on the image for a larger version):

If you want to make the point that slot results are totally random, try the cute-cat, 21-second video How Randomness Really Works

NY Council on Problem Gambling  

The New York Council on Problem Gambling website has a rich library of resources of all types for all kinds of people. They encourage you to review all of their downloadable Resources, and suggest contacting staffer Stelianos Canallatos, at SCanallatos@NYProblemGambling.org, “If you have any questions, or need hard copies of any resource.” (Mr. Canallatos has been very helpful to the proprietor of this website over the past few years.)

On its Media Resources page, NYCPG says:

NYCPG MEDIA

NYCPG has created several resource videos to support education, outreach and awareness raising efforts. Videos include PSAs and short films. Video vignettes focusing on sports betting, youth, aging adults and veterans are also available. Watch the videos below to find out more about how gambling impacts individuals, friends and family. Want to view all of our videos? Visit our YouTube page.

Empty Spaces” video

At NYCPG’s Know the Odds website, you will find access to quite a few videos and Public Service Announcements. They explain: “KnowTheOdds has created a variety of videos shown online and as PSAs throughout New York State. Watch the following videos to learn more about problem gambling, and share these videos to help educate family, friends and your community members about the risks associated with being addicted to gambling.” The videos are realistic and powerful, long enough to flesh out the problems of real people, but short enough to share in a group context.

The You(th) Decide website, is also brought to you by the NY Council of Problem Gambling, Inc.  “You(th) Decide NY is a resource for youth, parents and communities, interested in giving YOU(th) the power to DECIDE,” such as deciding about risky behavior such as underage gambling. Parents/Guardians, Youth, and Community Leaders interested in stopping underage gambling will find much to consider.

NYCPG is also a major player in publicizing and honoring Problem Gambling Awareness Month in New York State. [Click here for its Press Release for March 2019, with the topic of Problem Gambling in the Workplace.] “Have the Conversation” has been a recurring theme; in 2017, the goal was that

“every New Yorker have a problem gambling conversation with at least one person in March.”

That goal is still relevant today, and in every month.

The NYCPG website has much information on how to Have the Conversation. Below are thumbnails for Action Sheets aimed at (from L to R) Senior Caregivers, Youth, and Parents.

  . . .   . . . 

OASAS ProblemGambling Brochures

The NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services has a substantial number of brochures to download, including Know the Signs of Addiction. Brochures with information for vulnerable groups are available in English and Spanish. Click on these links for the English version of:

Here’s a section of the OASAS brochure on Problem Gambling & Seniors (click on it to enlarge):

 SCREENING FOR GAMBLING PROBLEMS. Medical and other provider offices and interested organizations may wish to participate in a Screening Day for gambling problems. Gambling Disorder Screening Day was Tuesday, March 12, 2019, but you can hold it on any day. A Screening Toolkit is available at no cost, here, from the Cambridge Health Alliance of Harvard Medical School.

. . . Healthcare providers can also screen their patients . .

The Responsible Gambling Council (Toronto, Canada) is dedicated to the prevention of problem gambling, using knowledge to find solutions. It has very useful material about Safer Play.

The  RGC Safer Play Quick Guide succinctly differentiates high-risk and low-risk gambling:

Safer Gambling Tips

High-Risk vs. Low-Risk Gambling

People who gamble in a high-risk way lose the sense that it’s only a game. They start to see gambling as a way to make money. Or they think they have special luck or abilities. Often when they lose, they bet more and more to try to win back what’s been lost.

People who gamble in a low-risk way naturally follow the principles of safer gambling. They see gambling as a form of entertainment. For them, a small gambling loss is the cost of a night’s entertainment—just like the cost of a movie ticket or a restaurant bill.

The RGC site has links to several Safer Play brochures, in 16 languages. Below are links for the English versions.

There is much to gain spending time at the Responsible Gambling Council site. I’ve been checking it regularly to see its frequently-changing Main Page Photos, which each contain a safer play tip. For example:

 . . .

A similar series featuring Schenectady folk and scenes might an enjoyable and useful safer-gambling project.

  •  Although I’ve focused in this posting on what the Community can do outside the political process, some readers might want to consider a campaign to persuade our State and local governments to increase Education-focused efforts to prevent problem gambling, rather than wait to treat it. For example, Seneca County and casino developer Wilmot [del Lago’s owner] set out the structure for a Problem Gambling Prevention, Outreach and Education Program, to be undertaken by the County and the Casino jointly, that will seriously address the issues relating to problem gambling. Schenectady County could, perhaps, invest in Problem Gambling Prevention, to avoid significant Social Services expenses, and other costs in the future.

[Current] CONCLUSION: As individuals and as a community, including our political, business, and civic leaders, we need to recognize and fight Schenectady’s Slots Gambling Problem, as well as other forms of problem gambling. Slotsification will increase the social costs to individuals, families and the community from having this Casino in our midst. If the portion of Rivers Casino revenue from slots keeps growing, it will surely lead to the very situation casino opponents most feared: Significant growth in problem gambling and all its consequences, but with a disappointing boost in revenues for the City and County, far less than our “leaders” promised when selling the project and deciding to take the risk of inviting an urban casino to Schenectady.

Let’s all Have the Group Conversation, with members or leaders of at least one social, civic, educational, or religious group, to discuss how you/we can make Schenectady a Healthy-Low-Risk Gambling City and best avoid the problem gambling trap. You could, for instance, brainstorm on how to use existing materials, like those presented above, or to create Schenectady-specific brochures, signs, and even billboards.

Year Three Begins: slots still reign at Rivers Casino

. . .

February 8, 2019 was the 2nd Anniversary of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor. As we’ve previously reported, all increased gambling revenue at Schenectady’s Rivers Casino during its second year of operation came from Slots/ETG play, which were up almost 15%, while table games and table poker had reduced revenue. Here’s the breakdown, using the Monthly Reports made by Rivers to the NYS Gaming Commission:

A comparison of the two Rivers Anniversary Months, February 2018 and February 2019, shows the same relationship as the revenue figures in its first and second years of operation: All added revenue is coming from slots:

AnnivMoCompare

We can see, then, that the worrisome trend continued into the first month of the 3rd Year of Operation for Rivers Casino, despite Anniversary Month efforts to promote Poker and Table Games [see, e.g., Casino LED screen at right].

Is Rivers Casino turning into that cursed form of urban “development,” a mediocre regional casino attracting predominantly local patrons who can least afford to gamble, and siphoning off entertainment dollars that were once spread across the local market for leisure activities — and, with no palatable solutions in sight?

No matter what you call this phenomenon — “slotsification”, “slotsploitation”, “Slotsnectady”, etc. — we should be concerned, because slots are the most addictive form of casino gambling. Slots also appeal more than other forms of casino gaming to many members of the most vulnerable groups of prospective gamblers, seniors and the elderly and low-income.

 . .

Just in time for the 2nd Anniversary of Rivers Casino operating at Mohawk Harbor, the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a 17-page Audit report the first week of February which concluded that the State has failed to assess the human toll of its gambling expansion and needs to better understand the problem, so that its limited resources can be best used to prevent and treat gambling addiction. The stated purpose of the report, “OASAS Problem Gambling Treatment Program (Report 2018-S-39, Feb. 2019), was “To determine whether the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has sufficient treatment programs for problem gamblers.” See, a Gazette article (Feb. 7, 2019), and related column by Sara Foss. ; and a Times Union article and editorial. It seems clear, that we need to understand who is playing slots at Rivers Casino and how we can help assure that having a casino in our midst does not spread the infection of problem gambling in our community.

As we noted in our posting “slotsification on the Mohawk“:

 It may be merely a coincidence that this is happening after Rivers Casino operated for a year in Schenectady, but “Studies by a Brown University psychiatrist, Robert Breen, have found that individuals who regularly play slots become addicted three to four times faster (in one year, versus three and a half years) than those who play cards or bet on sports.”  From Slot Machines Are Designed to Addict” (New York Times, October 10, 2013, by Natasha Dow Schüll).

We also noted in that post:

Whatever the cause, Slotsification will increase the social costs to individuals, families and the community from having this Casino in our midst. If the portion of Rivers Casino revenue from slots keeps growing, it will surely lead to the very situation casino opponents most feared: Significant growth in problem gambling and all its consequences, but with a disappointing boost in revenues for the City and County, far less than our “leaders” promised when selling the project and deciding to take the risk of inviting an urban casino to Schenectady.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and we will soon be posting a piece about Problem Gambling and Slots.

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News10 ABC’s special Valentine to Lady Liberty

You can find the Special Report here https://tinyurl.com/News10Liberty
.

 On Valentine’s Day 2019, the team at News10 ABC aired a Special Report about a very special Lady in distress, the City of Schenectady’s beloved replica of the Statue of Liberty. Titled “Local Treasure Locked Away“, the 3-Minute Report by Louis Finley focuses on the hope of many Schenectady residents that the Lady Liberty replica be returned to her home at Liberty Park. Although the City had promised to return the Statue, which was removed for its protection during the reconstruction of her park at Gateway Plaza, Lady Liberty is still looked in a City warehouse 8 months after the completion of the Plaza.

  •  Reporter Louis Finley interviewed Goosehill resident Matthew Sosnowski, Schenectady County Historical Society education director Michael Diana, and Stockade resident David Giacalone (the proprietor of this webste) for the Special Report, and included them in the presentation. .

The Albany ABC News Team was able to do what citizen proponents of Lady Liberty’s return home could not: Capture Her forlorn image “locked away” in the City’s Foster Avenue Warehouse, where she was taken in August 2017 for protection while the ground under her was literally being moved and removed and the Park reconfigured.

Unfortunately, what News Ten could not do is pry a commitment from Mayor Gary M. McCarthy or Mary Moore Wallinger, the primary designer of Gateway Plaza, that the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan would be followed and Lady Liberty returned to her home of 67 years. The Implementation Plan was adopted in June 2013 by the City Council and Mayor, after being formulated and presented to the Public and Council by Ms. Wallinger. It clearly called for only a temporary absence of the Statue from the Park/Plaza during construction. The first public mention that the Statue might not be returned to Liberty Park came in a newspaper article in December 2017, with no explanation ignoring a fully approved Plan. Instead, almost eleven months after the issue was first raised at a City Council meeting, Mayor McCarthy told News10 that a decision would soon be forthcoming.

  •  Dedication Day. The procrastination of our current Mayor and his carefree attitude toward Lady Liberty, her proponents, and the Planning and legislative process, is in stark contrast to the importance of the Statue to the City at the time of its Dedication. The Special Report shows the front page of the Schenectady Gazette on November 9, 1950, and the prominence given the story. The article states that 2500 scouts and scouters marched in a parade to the Park, with a crowd of 3,500 persons overflowing the small park for the dedication ceremony. Then Mayor Owen M. Begley called it a “beautiful, beautiful gift,” commenting that the replica here will be a great emblem in Schenectady of our great heritage of liberty

Another issue that News10 apparently could not pin down was the nature of the purported damage to the Statue that is allegedly keeping it from being re-installed. One aspect of the damage claim is why the million-dollar-plus budget for Gateway Plaza does/did not include funds for any needed rehabilitation of the Statue and its base before its return.

News10 anchors Lydia Kulbida and John Gray mentioned their intent to followup on this story. We hope that will include investigating the City’s claim that the name of Liberty Park has already been officially changed to Gateway Plaza by City Council and the Mayor. See our posting “the name is Liberty Park” for rebuttal on that point. (The renaming controversy is the context of my remarks in the Special Report comparing the significance to the public of the names Liberty and Gateway.)

  • For a discussion of the many issues raised by the failure to return the Lady to her Home, see our posting “Lady Liberty is Timeless,” which was written in reaction to the claim by Ms. Wallinger that the Statue did not fit into her contemporary vision of the Plaza. That posting and others at this site contain relevant images and links to documents, Click on the collage to the right of this paragraph for a summary of the relationship of the Replica Statue to the Implementation Plan, including a photo of Lady Liberty in the Park prior to her removal, and details from a rendering and plat that show the replica Statue returned as part of the Implementation Plan. Also, click here for a collage showing why people were so fond of the beautiful statue and its original home.

Thank you, News 10 ABC, for spreading the word about our exiled Lady Liberty and showing the passion of her supporters for her return.

LLDedicationPhoto08Nov1950e . . [L] photo of Liberty replica statue dedication event (Schenectady Gazette, Nov. 9, 1950, front-page) . .

 

the name is Liberty Park (updated)

An article in today’s Daily Gazette (Jan. 7, 2019) makes it sound like Liberty Park has already been officially renamed Gateway Plaza.

  • red checkupdate (Jan. 23, 2019): According to an email I received from Gazette reporter Andrew Beame, Schenectady City Hall is arguing that Resolution 2017-178 (June 12, 2017) has in fact already named the land in question Gateway Plaza. [scroll down to the large Red Check for our rebuttal.]

The article, “Nearly New Year’s event deemed a success by its organizers” (by Andrew Beam, January 7, 2019), tells us that the location of the Nearly New Year’s Eve event was “formerly known as ‘Liberty Park’,” and:

GatewayPlazaBirdseye“City and county officials said the name [Gateway Plaza] is fitting since the park serves a gateway into the city. It’s also an area that has several redevelopment projects occurring and is where a portion of Interstate 890 exits into.”

“I’m truly comfortable with the name,” said City Council President Ed Kosiur. 

Of course, only a majority vote of City Council can name or rename a park, and that has neither happened, nor been scheduled for the Council agenda. For instance, here is a screenshot from the Public Workshop portion of the Final Report of the City of Schenectady Gateway Plaza, adopted by the City in 2013, in which the name change question was directly raised and answered:

gp-namingpark

As you can see, the Design Team [led by Mary Wallinger] specifically downplayed the importance of the generic name “Gateway Plaza”, and assured the public that the name had not been changed, noting that “The City Council would have to vote to change the name from ‘Liberty Park’. There are currently no specific plans to change the name of the park.” Wallinger did use the qualifying phrase “currently no specific plans to change”, but did not qualify her statement that the City Council would have to make that change, and not CDTA, or Metroplex, or the City’s Planning Office.

crescenttoveterans The consistent, longtime practice of the City of Schenectady has, in fact, been to hold public hearings before naming or renaming a park. [See, e.g., excerpts from The Proceedings of the City Council of Schenectady, concerning naming Grout Park and changing Crescent Park to Veterans Park.] Thus, before Riverside Park was named, there was a contest and public hearing; and, public hearings and resolutions were also used decades later, both when its name was changed to Rotundo Park and when it was changed back to Riverside Park.

Furthermore, the Resolution of City Council adopting the Implementation Plan [Res. 2013-206] makes no mention of a name change and specifically states that the Plan “proposes an improvement of Liberty Park and an expansion of its confines, now including Water Street.”

That is not surprising, as the Implementation Plan was specifically conceived as the fulfillment of the seminal “Route 5 Transit Gateway Linkage Study: Gateway District Plan” (2010). That Study speaks of a broader, generic Gateway District, and of constructing “Stockade Gateways” that were actually gateways — that is, arches. But the Study never mentions a Gateway Park or Gateway Plaza. For example, instead, at 37, it says (emphasis added):

Liberty Park is improved and enlarged to a rectangular shape roughly four times its current size. The right of way that Water Street occupies, a path of significant historical importance, continues as a pedestrian walk through the park. Liberty Park will be the primary open space for the new neighborhood being proposed for the study area and will serve to connect it with the Stockade in a clear and pedestrian friendly way. The park will be quadrupled in size and the raised berms will be removed to allow clear sight lines.

The 2010 Gateway Study also explains:

48] IMPLEMENTATION PLAN chart
Liberty Park Improvements 
.
Liberty Park would become an attractive, usable, urban park and plaza through this project that would celebrate its location at the entrance to Schenectady from I-890 and the Western Gateway Bridge. It would also form the link between SCCC, the Stockade, and new development in the study area. This project would close Water Street and expand and renovate the park to provide a centerpiece public space for the study area. 

.

Moreover, the figures used to explain/depict the proposal explicitly label the expanded green area as “Liberty Park” (click on each figure for a larger version):

libertypark2010plan

fig3.2newdevelopmentsdetail
.
.
Given this background, it is difficult to fathom the rush to call this wonderful, historic spot something as generic, bland, and overused as “Gateway”.  A park should be a destination and its name have significance to the public — preserving a name is one way to assure connection and significance. The replica of Lady Liberty, which gave the Park its identity and name, has significance to a few generations of Schenectadians.
.
Moreover, a “gateway” is not a destination, it is something used to reach your intended destination.  In addition, very few if any people will actually use this plaza/park as an entryway to Schenectady. They will in fact skirt around it, mostly in motorized vehicles. Or, unless they arrive by helicopter, will already be in Schenectady on foot, coming from SCCC or the Stockade.
.
gp-planschange It is hard not to see a pattern here: The authors and proponents of the Gateway Plaza renovation project and the Final Gateway Park Implementation Plan told and showed the public what they thought the public wanted during the planning and approval process:

.  Their goal, I believe, was to avoid controversy or making a record that showed strong public opinion.

CityHallRubberStampThen, making a mockery of earlier democratic processes and transparency, we are presented with something very different as a Done Deal, fait accompli. (See our posting on ignoring plans and the public.) Public opinion and outcry means nothing, it seems, to City and County poohbahs, who count on the 4-member Democratic rump majority on City Council to merely nod their heads in agreement, usually in silence or spouting platitudes. If official action is needed, the Rump Majority wields a rubber-stamp on any changes, surprises, or unexpected distortions of adopted plans — often, even plans which they themselves voted for in official resolutions. Common sense and common opinion be damned (or at least ignored).

  • see-no-evil-monkeyBlueEven worse, as with the name of Liberty Park, City Council doesn’t even bring these measures up again, letting the Mayor’s Office or Metroplex just go ahead with the changed plans, and getting the media to go along.
  • 316-vector-no-evil-monkeysRred check Follow-up (Jan. 23, 2019): According to an email I received from Gazette reporter Andrew Beame, City Hall is arguing that Resolution 2017-178 (June 12, 2017), has in fact already named the land in question Gateway Plaza. Beame says that is why he wrote “formerly known as ‘Liberty Park'” in his article “Nearly New Year’s event deemed a success by its organizers“. There are many reasons to dispute this claim, among them:
    • 12jun2017agendaNo Notice to the Public. Neither City Council Members nor the public knew that Res. 2017-178 was naming or renaming anything, especially not Liberty Park, and the topic was not mentioned in the Council Agenda [Item #30; click on image at head of this bullet point], or at the Council Meeting by City officials, Council members, or the public.
    • Resolution re Alienating Parkland. The Resolution was rushed through the Council to get a request to the State Legislature before the closing of its Session, for permission to “alienate” parkland at Riverside Park for possible use in constructing a new pumping station. The Resolution proposed substituting the Riverside Park land with City-owned land along Water Street that would be used in the Gateway Plaza project.
    • Liberty Park is not mentioned anywhere in the Resolution or the 8-page appendix that described the lands to be swapped, and is not part of the lands described in the appendix.
I almost hate to make this “compromise” suggestion, since my offering it might make it DOA at City Hall. But, if big egos make keeping the current name “Liberty Park” embarrassing to our Poohbahs, why not just call it Liberty Plaza, or Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza. Being a Smart City means a whole lot more than high-tech lamp-poles. A bit of Emotional Intelligence would go a long way toward earning the respect of the residents of our City and County, and avoiding needless aggravation, and future questions by folks wondering, “what were they thinking?”.
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2018 gambling revenue at Rivers Casino

 Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor posted its final Weekly Gambling Revenue Report for 2018 yesterday morning (Jan. 4, 2019), at the website of the NYS Gaming Commission. Here’s my summary in a nutshell:

  • GPROJECTION COMPARISON: The $152 million total Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) in 2018 is only 71% of the projection for 2018 [$213.9 million] given in Rush Street Gaming’s Application for its Rivers Casino gaming license. As discussed below, that shortfall exists despite the Casino having achieved virtually all of its important “wait-untils” that we were told should produce the projected revenue.
  • MONTH TO MONTH COMPARISON: For the eleven months of 2018 that correspond with the first eleven months of operation of the Casino in 2017 (February through December), GGR increased 10.5%, with all of the increase coming from Slots/ETG play, the most addictive form of casino gambling, and no increase in table games or poker table gambling.
  • ANNUAL COMPARISON: The gaming revenue for the full 52 weeks of 2018 was $152 million, compared to the $129 million GGR generated in the 47 weeks that Rivers Casino operated in 2017. Thus, with 5 extra weeks of operation, GGR was about 18% more than the $129 million of GGR from 2017, which was itself a 30% shortfall from the 2017 projection. More than half of the increase in 2018 GGR over 2017 was in fact due to the 5 extra weeks of operation.

. . Here are charts with those numbers: 

riverscasinoprojections

Projections – from Rivers Casino Application for gaming license (Item VIII.B.4, at 3)

riversrevscomparefeb-dec

update: Comparing the first twelve months of operation (Year One) with the second twelve months of operation (Year Two) at Rivers Casino, all growth in gambling revenue continues to be from Slots/ETG:

RiversRevs1stTwoYrs

How will the “Casino Gang” spin the 2018 GGR numbers? I’m betting the owners of the Casino [Rush Street Gaming] and Mohawk Harbor [the Galesi Group], and casino-affiliated businesses, plus elected and appointed officials, who have risked their reputations on casino results, will be merely touting a “significant” increase in gaming revenue over the 2017 results, with corresponding uptick in tax revenue. If you’ve been reading revenue comparisons reported at this website throughout 2018, you already know we are not exactly impressed with the Gaming Revenue situation at Rivers Casino, especially if this is what “stabilization” of operations at Rivers Casino looks like.

riversggr2018target A year ago this week, we analyzed the year-end numbers for Rivers Casino in a posting titled “Casino Projections vs. Casino Reality” (Jan. 7, 2018); the image at the head of this paragraph is a detail from a collage called The Rivers Casino Projection Game. It is difficult to feel any more optimistic a year later about the benefits to our community that will flow from Rivers Casino as compared with the risks our leaders took bringing it here. That is especially true when recalling that plans for Mohawk Harbor were well on their way before talk of a casino, and would have brought most of the benefits, more green-space, and maybe a downtown supermarket. Mohawk Harbor without a casino would have meant avoiding the increased risk of problem gambling and addiction, and DWI incidents; along with the dispiriting sight and sound of supine “snowman” leadership, and the disappointing failure to fulfill tax-relief promises, that have come with the Casino.

SlotsGrandmaBW The downsides seem no less daunting, including the ethically-bankrupt decision to use casino revenue as the source of tax relief (as a wag has put it: Robbing Grandma to pay our property taxes); and the downsizing of Schenectady’s image from Lighting and Hauling the World to home of a mediocre regional casino. The benefits seem scarcely worth the risks taken, especially since Mohawk Harbor and the rebirth of our downtown were already bringing most of those benefits without the downsides.

After reviewing the August 2018 revenue figures, we mused over the predictable Catch-22 our civic “leaders” and Casino Cheerleaders have thrust upon our Community. [There is a slightly edited version at the foot of this posting.*] Efforts to increase gaming revenue, especially gambling dollars from slots, threaten our most vulnerable community members. And, general efforts by Discover Schenectady and local leaders to increase non-gambling dollars spent at Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor, will benefit their owners, but bring in lower levels of tax payments (since sales taxes and food/beverages and entertainment and retail are so much lower than gaming revenue taxes).

Rush Street Gaming has a history of over-predicting its gambling revenue, and there is apparently little risk when it does so. Rivers Casino’s gaming business does not need to come even close to its projections to be profitable. And, sadly, even lower than predicted gaming revenue will not be likely to reduce problem gambling, when so many of the gambling dollars are generated by “slotsification“.

Nonetheless, a Civic Booster might ask: Aren’t the final numbers a reason to be optimistic? Isn’t the 17% increase in GGR at yearend 2018 over yearend 2017 truly significant? A Casino Realist might answer: Not, I am afraid, when you realize that there were 5 extra weeks of operation in 2018 than 2017. If 2017 had been a full 52-week year, and monthly average GGR remained the same, we would have expected about $142 million in GGR for 2017. The 2018 result of $152 million, is only 7% higher than the full-year estimate of $142 million GGR.

Indeed, whether the added GGR in 2018 at Rivers Casino was 7%, or 10.5% or 17%, it is difficult to get excited about the increase when we recall all of the in-place features that should have brought many more people and, therefore, more gamblers to Mohawk Harbor. The full-panoply of features at the Mohawk Harbor site that should have drawn increased gambling dollars even more significantly in 2018 include:

  • the filling of the 206-unit River House apartment complex
  • the holding of Table Game and Poker classes (sponsored by Ellis Medical and MVP)
  • the opening of the Marina in November 2017 (with hopes of snagging high-wheeler yacht owners)
  • the holding of free weekly summer concerts, drawing thousands, at the Amphitheater
  • installation of a giant pylon sign on Erie Boulevard at the Mohawk Harbor entrance
  • the opening of the popular Druthers brewery and restaurant
  • a broad array of entertainment events
  • significant assistance from the Schenectady County tourism and convention center, with its $400,000+ budget and Discover Schenectady website.
  • completion of the Mohawk Harbor bike-pedestrian trail
  • addition of a CYCLE bike share station at Mohawk Harbor
  • and more

Meanwhile, can we expect the early enthusiasm for Rivers Casino gambling to continue in the primary local marketplace? Beyond human nature, which looks for novelty, we have reports of “riots” inside on two occasions, tales of unreported muggings, and increased auto break-ins in nearby neighborhoods, tarnishing its reputation.

Furthermore, Rivers Casino and its experts only predicted, a 10% increase over the 2018 GGR for 2021, which it considered to be a fully stabilized year. Our leaders keep saying “wait until the Casino operations stabilize,” but stabilization at a rather under-whelming plateau, far short of projections, is not cause for celebration.

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As more information comes out about 2018 operations and results at Rivers Casino, we will attempt to cover them at this website. It would also be helpful if the media or local government started to look into the effects the Casino might be having on pre-existing businesses in the local entertainment, dining, and leisure marketplace. Also, how have Schenectady residents fared in obtaining and keeping jobs at Rivers Casino?

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resolve to bring back the Lady to her Park

2019Calendar-LADYe

. . above: click on image above for a larger version of our Bring Her Home calendar, which is formatted for a 5″x7″ print. . Please download, use, and share. 

It has been nine months since we began asking the Mayor and City Council of Schenectady to honor and implement the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan (2013) and return the City’s replica Lady Liberty statue to her home, Liberty-Gateway Park. Since that time, Mayor Gary McCarthy has not given us any justification for failing to follow the fully approved Implementation Plan, saying only that “our design team” recommended not returning Lady Liberty.

The Design Team is basically Mary Moore Wallinger, who was the primary author of the Implementation Plan that promised return of the statue, and is Chair of the City’s Planning Commission. Ms. Wallinger either never wanted Lady Liberty to return, and proposed the return to avoid controversy during the planning process, or simply changed her mind and decided on her own, with no public notice or input, to send the Statue of Liberty replica elsewhere. Why? At first Wallinger advanced the silly excuse that Lady Liberty was too small for the Plaza; she then merely noted at a City Council meeting that “plans change”, and settled on the sad and insufficient excuse that the Lady is not “contemporary” enough to fit her image of the new Plaza.

Throughout 2018, Mayor Gary McCarthy has indicated he has been too busy to make a decision and direct Ms. Wallinger, whose LAndArt Studio is the “construction administrator” of Gateway Park, to arrange to return Lady Liberty (after its mysteriously damaged base is repaired). At no point has anyone at City Hall offered a justification for ignoring an implementation plan that went through a full design process, with public input and agreement, and approval by City Council in a Resolution naming the Implementation Plan an official Document of the City, which the Mayor signed. There is no safety or financial basis for ignoring the approved Plan. There is only the change of personal change of mind by Ms. Wallinger.

We ask that the Mayor, Ms. Wallinger, and City Council resolve to return the Lady Liberty statue to an appropriate location in her home Park as soon as winter’s end allows for the installation. Surely, our so-called Smart City is wise enough to do the right thing. Returning Lady Liberty would be an important step toward gaining the trust of the public, and give us reason to hope the New Year moves Schenectady toward having a City Hall its people can respect.

newyearlady-001

 

after 44 weeks all added revenues still from slots

 For the 44 weeks since the 1st Anniversary celebration began for Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, gambling revenues at the Schenectady Casino have been up a mere 10.1% from the dismal take its first year. But, making the anemic results even more worrisome, the total increase has come from Slot machines, up 16.8%, with Table Games and Poker Table GGR both down over the first year. Click here for the Rivers Casino Weekly Revenue Reports.

RiversRevs-Compare-Feb-Nov

A Ten Percent increase is surely disappointing, now that the Casino has its long “wait until” list in place: Its own Landing Hotel; the Large River House apartment complex open and nearly full; the Marina attracting boaters, and its Amphitheater bringing thousands to free concerts; the popular Druther’s Brewery restaurant crowded, help from the Convention and Tourism Bureau, a large shopping-mall-style sign for Mohawk Harbor, and more.

A FLAT NOVEMBER. Also, the Rivers Casino numbers for November 2018 compared to November 2017 are not impressive and should be worrisome to our tax revenue bean counters, if they signal the likely results for the rest of the year:

Total GGR –  1% increase
Nov 2018   $11,434,584
Nov. 2017.  $11,326,616
SLOTS/ETG-  6.4% increase
Nov. 2018  $7,847,001.
Nov. 2017. $7,376,744
TABLE GAMES – 10.3% decrease
Nov.2018  $3,189,766.
Nov.2017.  $3,551,859

 

WPU/WPS PERFORMANCE? The Albany Times Union recently told us that Rivers Casino is “outperforming” its upstate commercial casino rivals. Rivers is clearly bringing in more gambling revenue per slot machine than either del Lago Casino at Tyre NY or Resorts World International at Monticello. Resorts World has about 1000 more slot machine than Rivers, and del Lago has 800 more. But, I am not sure how much weight to give to the Wins Per Unit or Wins Per Slot numbers presented by the TU as a measure of “performance” by the casino. Because I am not even close to being an expert in casino slot strategy, tactics or theory, I can only muse here, and be bemused. Naturally, I would appreciate hearing from experts on how to assess the situation. This is what the Times Union was told by Rivers Casino:

A Rivers spokesperson put out the following statement after the Times Union asked the casino to comment on what has helped the facility bring in revenue:  “We are very thankful for the support this year from our loyal guests,” read the statement attributed to Justin Moore, Rivers’ assistant general manager. “We continue to focus on providing a great guest experience every day.”

 

  • Wins Per Slot is “The amount of money left in a slot machine at day’s end”.  It is derived from looking at the Gross Credits played on a casino’s slot machines and subtracting the amount paid out; that figure is the Slots GGR for the covered period, which yields the Casino’s WPS when divided by the Number of Slot machines on the floor of the Casino.

TU, using NYS Gambling Commission numbers, says that Rivers Casino had a WPS of $236 for October 2018, compared to del Lago’s WPS of $166. [Resorts World’s operations are far from stabilized, so I am only comparing del Lago and Rivers here.]

 The Slots/ETG GGR total for each casino is “dollars in” minus dollars paid. Looking at the Slots GGR as a percentage of the Credits Played, it looks like Rivers’ is paying out 1.25¢ to 1.5¢ (1.25% to 1.5%) less than del Lago for each dollar of credit paid in.  For example, click on the screen shot compilation to the right, with monthly numbers from April through October 2018 for the two casinos. To wit:

  • Rivers Slots GGR is 8.60%, a 1.25% higher retention after payouts than del Lago’s 7.35%
  • 1.25% of the $728 million played on the slots during that period at Rivers is $9.1 million
  • There were 214 days in the period, or $418K extra left per day in the machines than if Rivers had used del Lago’s higher payout rate
  • Divided by 1150 slot machines, there is an extra $36 per day per unit
On the other hand, if del Lago had kept as much as Rivers, del Lago would have had about $11.7 million dollars more over the 7 months to ascribe to WPU. Divided by 214 days, that equals $546K, and divided by 1961 (the daily average of slot/ETG machines), is about $28 per day more per unit.
 
  • If each casino had used the other’s payout rate, their WPU’s would be a lot closer, but I am not certain what that would tell us about their “performance” as opposed to strategies for attracting players to their slot machines.

Nonetheless, I do wonder:

  1. Wouldn’t their “loyal customers” like to know that Rivers pays out 1.25% less for each dollar played at a Slot Machine than del Lago is paying?
  2. Is this a version of the Worst Case Scenario we casino opponents raised in 2014: Rivers is missing its gambling revenue projections by a significant amount. It is attracting lots of repeat local slots customers, raising the potential for increased gambling addiction and problem gambling in our community. AND, it is paying its loyal slots customers less per dollar played than its competitors.

By the way, if del Lago were to reduce the number of slot machines it has in use by 800, to increase its “performance” and offer the same number of slots as Rivers [1150], it would save $500 per machine in annual licensing fees, meaning the State would receive $400,000 less toward a fund to help fight problem gambling. By starting with the lower number of slot machines, Rivers has saved itself $500 per machine in licensing fees.

encore for those infamous Snowmen

Thank you Albany Times Union, for helping to ensure that the history and legend of the Snowmen at the Schenectady Stockade Gates, on the night of the 1690 Massacre, will be more widely known and will not be buried or forgotten again. At the top of the Sunday TU Business section yesterday, The Buzz column (Dec. 9, 2018, at E1) read:

TUTheBuzzDetailHistory of Snowman, an illustrated view

The current issue of the Smithsonian magazine highlights the Snowman in history, including the failed effort by some human sentinels to protect the village of Schenectady in 1690 while they visited a tavern.

According to the new book, “Illustrated History of the Snowman” by Bob Eckstein  French and Indian forces weren’t fooled by the snowman sentinels the guards had erected in their place, and the night ended badly for the Schenectadians, with 60 residents — men, women and children — killed in the massacre. . . 

After describing the spread of snowmen images thereafter, including widespread use in advertising for alcoholic beverages, The Buzz cheekily points out:

Apparently, they hadn’t learned that alcohol and snowmen don’t mix.

. . [Ed. note] All the hoopla about the craft breweries coming to Schenectady’s Mill Lane Artisan District might be a fateful failure of memory of our local leaders. The 1690 wayward sentinels had, in fact, gone to the Douwe Aukes Tavern at Mill Lane for their tankards of brew, and the Stockade paid dearly for it.

HistSnowman2007Cover At this website, Snowmen at the Gates, our title theme of snowmen futilely guarding Schenectady’s gates has its genesis in Bob Eckstein’s original 2007 version of The History of the Snowman, which has a chapter devoted to the 1690 Massacre. That is where I first learned of the scandalous dereliction of duty that led to the horrific  Schenectady Massacre.

  • That’s right, after living here in ignorance of that tale for twenty years, it took a NYC sophisticate and author/humorist/cartoonist to teach me the sad story behind the saddest day in the history of my adopted home. As I travel around Town, and when I mention the name of this website, it is clear that most folks still do not know the legend of the Snowmen at the Gates, which I am afraid means that our City has not Learned the Lessons of the 1690 Massacre.

IllustratedSnowman-EcksteinCover If you’d like to read Bob Eckstein‘s full discussion of the 1690 Massacre and the impotent snowmen left at an open gate (despite warnings from Albany of a raiding party on the way), go to the Amazon.com page for his new Illustrated History of the Snowman”, where you can Look Inside the Book, and simply search the word Schenectady. You’ll also see that Schenectady snowmen are the first reference to snowmen in North America that Bob found in his comprehensive research on the history of such frozen aqueous sculpture.

Both editions of History of the Snowman contain the full illustration of the North Wind Archives artwork that adorns our masthead above; that’s where I first saw it and was inspired to contact the good folks at North Wind. Here is another image from the Illustrated History, a snow-globe depicting the 1690 Massacre:

1690MassacreSnowGlobe

Preparing to write this posting today, I discovered:

  1. bobecksteinschdyExactly a decade ago this weekend, on December 7, 2008, Bob Eckstein visited Schenectady to do a presentation at our Central Library (image at the right) and book-signing at the Open Door for the 1st Edition of History of the Snowman. See “snowman historian blows into Schenectady” (f/k/a, Dec. 7, 2008); and “SnowmanCity, NY“ (Nov. 29, 2008).
  2. While Schenectady snowmen were the first reference Bob found to their species in North America, the last two postings at Bob’s decade-long website Today’s Snowman, historyofthesnowman.com, were also about Schenectady snowmen. See “Schenectady’s Stockade Snowman at the Gates” (Feb. 3, 2016); and “Schenectady Snowman from 2009” (Feb. 10, 2016). Here are screenshots of those last two postings; click on them to enlarge.

TodaysSnowman

TodaysSnowman03Feb2016 . .  . TodaysSnowman03Feb2008a

So, in many ways, Bob Eckstein is the godfather or midwife of this website. Without him, we might be called The Adventures of Mayor McSmarty. Or, maybe “If this is a Renaissance . . . “.

Ignored – the rules, the plans, the public, and safety

At tonight’s Schenectady City Council meeting, Nov. 13, I hope (despite the unrealistic 3-minute rule) to present and explain the issues depicted in collages posted below. The first topic is related to the Agenda Item regarding approval of a Schenectady PRIDE art installation at Gateway/Liberty Park.  Schenectady needs an established procedure to ensure adequate public input and post-approval monitoring of plans for proposals regarding important public spaces and art. The second will be a Privilege of the Floor statement regarding important safety issues created along the Mohawk Harbor’s shared use path by the failure to follow rules, plans, and best practices when installing a guardrail on the riverside and a set of interpretive signs on the Casino side.

. . share this post with this short URL: https://tinyurl.com/IgnoredPlans

Click on an image for a larger version.

FIRST: “PLANS CHANGE”. For fuller discussion of the question of how [or how not] to include the public in the selection of public art and in the design and implementation of plans for important projects and locations, see:

GP-planschange

. . GP-Turbine-Girders

GPLightPoleChange

follow-up (November 24, 2018): The Daily Gazette reports “Stockade Association board asks for more public input on projects: The board detailed this in a letter given to the mayor and city council members” (by Andrew Beam, Nov. 23, 2018). Commentary can be found at the end of this posting.

SECOND: The bike-pedestrian Trail at Mohawk Harbor is far less safe than it readily could have been because of a failure to follow rules, plans, and best practices when installing a guardrail on the riverside and a set of interpretive signs on the Casino side. For comprehensive discussion of ALCO Heritage or Mohawk Harbor Trail safety issues, with excerpts from and links to relevant rules and studies, and with many more photos, etc., see:

ALCOTrail-safetyignored

update (Nov. 24, 2018): As stated above, the Gazette published an article today by Andrew Beam headlined “Stockade Association board asks for more public input on projects” (Nov. 23, 2018).  In a lengthy comment left at the article’s online webpage, I made several points, including:

Continue reading

Who botched placement of the ALCO Heritage Trail signs?

Schenectady County spent $30,000 for a set of “interpretive” signs that were installed along the ALCO Heritage Trail about six weeks ago. They celebrate the proud history of the site as location of the American Locomotive Company, where world-class locomotives and tanks were manufactured for over a century. [See County Press Release (Sept. 18, 2018); Daily Gazette article, and Times Union coverage (Sept. 20, 2018)]

IMG_9190 . . IMG_9193

But, even a casual look at the placement of the sturdy and wordy signs reveals that they are too close to the bike-hike trail, creating a hazard for anyone stopping to read the lengthy messages, and for bicyclists and pedestrians on the Trail. For example,

  • DSCF4280Neither the required 3-foot lateral clearance from a shared-use path stated in Schenectady’s Bike Master Plans (see below), much less the preferred distance of 3 to 5 feet, has been allotted for the large interpretive signs. The Best Practices rule of thumb of 3-5′ applies even to small  signs on single, narrow poles, to help ensure that a cyclist or pedestrian who must swerve off a path in an emergency or panic, has room to maneuver to safety. Instead, the frames of the ALCO Heritage signs are as little 28 inches from the bike-hike path.
  •  Whether a reader is alone, or part of a couple, family or group, the only place from which to read each of the 11 signs is from the shared-use Trail, placing them in the way of cyclists, runners, and all types of pedestrians passing by in both directions. The more successful the Trail is attracting users and tourists, the more frequently will conflicts arise.
  • There is no hard surface off the path “tread” for sign-readers in a wheelchair, or with a cane, walker or motorized scooter, to stop; nor for a curious bicyclist; nor for pedestrians who want to avoid unpaved ground around the sign when it is wet, slippery, or muddy.

 

 . . alcotrailsignreaders.jpg
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Members of the public without planning and engineering degrees (and, surely, even a group of visiting fourth-graders) can immediately see or sense that the ALCO Heritage signs are poorly placed. Why, then, would the County and City of Schenectady, which have been planning and promoting the use of bike and hike trails since before the dawning of the Third Millennium, permit this sub-par (and liability-creating) installation?  Good question.

ALCOSigns-McQueen-Hughes-Gaz [R] A new sign is unveiled byGary Hughes, Majority Leader of the County Legislature and Chair of its Economic Planning and Development Committee, and Joe McQueen, Spokesman for the County (Sept. 20, 2018). Photo by Marc Schultz for the Daily Gazette.

 

BikeSchyAdvisoryCmte . . SchdyBike2001-steering

. . above: [R] Steering Committee for the City of Schenectady Bike Master Plan (2001); and [L] and Advisory Panel of Bike Schenectady Master Plan (2017). Click on image for a larger version.

The County and City both were well-represented on the two Bike Master Plans produced and adopted by the City of Schenectady since the turn of the Century, one in 2001, and one just last year, the Bike Schenectady Master Plan, 2017. [See the lists in the images above this paragraph.] Both Master Plans call for a lateral clearance of at least 3 feet from the edge of the path for any signs along a shared-use path in the City of Schenectady (even small ones on skinny poles). And, of course, in both plans, a shared-use path along the Mohawk at the old ALCO site was seen as the crowning jewel of the system. Click on the images immediately below to see relevant portions of [L] the 2001 Bike Master Plan; and [R] Bike Schenectady (p. B-21 of the Appendices):

MUTCDshareduse . . BikeSchdy-TrailClearance

  • The American Trails organization also recommends a 3-foot clearance; as does, e.g., the Florida DOT: “3 feet or more desirable (clearance from trees, poles, walls, fences, guardrails, etc.)”.

But, is there any other reason, besides Common Sense safety and convenience concerns, for insisting that those viewing a trail-side interpretive sign be allowed to stand or sit off the trail? The Erie County Wayfinding Manual is a useful guide on many of the issues that arise in planning and implementing a bike-hike trail. It offers the thoughtful guidance that signage formats be “designed around the information they need to convey”, and thus (at 4, emphasis added):

Detailed orientation information, for instance, is placed on large signs where people can pull off the trail and spend as much time as they wish to study made, legends or interpretive information.

It is hard to believe that County and City planning staff members who have been active in municipal bicycle matters are not aware of the notion that interpretive signs be placed in a way that lets interested persons safely study them off the path, on a hard surface. Indeed, only two months ago, the County‘s study for a portion of this very ALCO Heritage Trail, MOHAWK HUDSON BIKE TRAIL EXTENSION FEASIBILITY REPORT (Sept. 14, 2018, at 22), included the following illustration, captioned “Example of wayfaring or interpretive signs”:

MHBTFReport-SignageImage . . MHBTFReport-signagepage

. . shorter URL for the Sept. 2018 Extension Feasibility Report: https://tinyurl.com/ALCOTrailExtend

IMG_9200This past Sunday (Nov. 4, 2018), while standing at the sign shown to the right and speaking to the couple in the photo, speedo-clad bicyclists twice rode quickly past us, appearing from the west, and in no way signaled their presence or their passing us on the left. Over the entire past year walking on the Mohawk Harbor trail and on the only paved path at Riverside Park, only one bicyclist passing me gave the required signal, with the silent ones leaving me startled and often off-balance. If nothing else, the customary behavior of individuals and groups using our trails, along with the lack of enforcement of safety rules, must be taken into account when designing and installing signage.

  • img_9186.jpg My web search could not be exhaustive, but the examples of interpretive signage closer than three feet from a trail that I found, and that were shaped like most of the ALCO Heritage Trail signage (example on the left), were on pedestrian or hiking trails, not trails that were meant to accommodate bicyclists (or horses).

If the experienced and professional staff members in planning and related offices of the County and City are aware of the 3-foot clearance rule and the preference for getting sign-readers off the path, why was the ALCO Heritage Trail signage project so poorly designed? I can only presume that their advice was silenced or over-ridden by people with more authority, who lacked knowledge of the regulation or best practices, and never bothered to ask fundamental questions. Or, who had priorities other than the safety and convenience of trail users, such as using as little of the developer’s or Casino’s lawn next to the path as possible, or spending as little money as possible.

RayGillen-tireless When I wrote to Metroplex Chair, and County Planning/Development Chief, Ray Gillen, to ask why the signs were so close to the Trail, his only reply on that issue was, “We all think they are beautiful.”  Ray Gillen, is known as tireless and working 24/7, and always tells me I should come first to him with concerns. Perhaps others will be more successful than I getting a useful explanation from Mr. Gillen. Maybe, asking Legislator Gary Hughes or Anthony Jasenski, Legislative Chair, would be more useful. My attempts to get answers from City and County leaders have been fruitless, which usually means they know I will not likely like the answer or consider it to be persuasive.

DSCF4279My hope is that members of the media and general public who care about public safety and transparency, and the rule of law, will probe a bit more. And, do so before the first serious injury along the Harbor Trail, and any related law suit.

Mohawk Harbor was meant to be, and is constantly touted as, the City’s showplace and pride. Yet, the Mohawk Harbor bike-hike trail has been constructed (somehow, at the expense of taxpayers rather than the developer) with little regard for public safety and comfort. Both the history signs on the south/Casino side of the trail, and the guardrails on the riverside of the trail, ignore the City’s codes, policies and plans, as well as best practice guidelines that seem particularly appropriate for our “showplace” Harbor.

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DSCF4232

Rivers Casino table games revenue still down from 2017

gaminglessonsad Despite sponsoring Gaming Lessons last September (see image to right), and having a rather good Table Games month in October 2018, Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor has still taken in less revenue from Table Games in the nine months since its first anniversary in February 2018, than it did in the same months of 2017, after its opening.  This is, of course, the flip side of the “slotsification” trend we have been reporting on here the past several months: The almost 11% increase in revenues at Rivers Casino over the same period last year is totally accounted for by an increase in Slots/ETG revenue of over 18%, with both table games and poker table revenue down. [Click for the Rivers’ Weekly Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) figures submitted to the Gaming Commission.] Here’s a chart showing aggregate numbers for the first nine months of operation of Rivers Casino in Schenectady, which began in February 2017, alongside the figures for the same nine months in 2018:

 CasinoRevCompared-Feb-Oct

We Repeat our Main Concern: Slots are the most addictive form of casino gambling, and draw many of the most vulnerable members of our community. As disappointing as the measly 1% reduction in property tax rates may be for 2019 (see Times Union article dated Oct. 26, 2018), the budget antics that brought any decrease at all due to Casino gaming tax revenues, are primarily bought with the Slots dollars spent by our grandmothers and neighbors who probably can least afford to gamble at Rivers Casino. The High Rollers are not flying in regularly to help reduce your taxes.

SlotsGrandmaBW. . Thank you, Dearie, for the tiny tax cut; but, you better try harder! . . 

Slots have been up elsewhere across the nation, but at nowhere near the percentage increase that we have seen all year along the Mohawk. Despite that, neither the City nor County of Schenectady has budgeted any funds for problem gambling education and prevention in 2019.  And, neither government seems to want to look into, much less talk about, the dollars sucked out of other local businesses as crowds are lured to events at Mohawk Harbor.

pillar-ied at the Plaza

img_6565-Pillars

No, those “Rusty Girders” & “Light Sabers” are not there for Halloween. They are, however, more trick than treat for many of the people who live or work in Schenectady, or just visit the City and pass by or through “Gateway Plaza”.

 . . 

Of course, the Plaza fixtures aren’t officially called “Rusty Girders” & “Light Sabers”. They are the modern sculpture and lighting fixtures that have been permanently installed along Gateway Plaza’s [Liberty Park’s] Water Street Pedestrian Way. What do you think?

The makers of each refer to them as “pillars”:

  • img_8667.jpgThe girders, which have been placed at the Central Focal Point of the Plaza as urban sculpture, are “Open Pillar Corten Steel Lighting Columns“, described as “triangular LED-ready lighting columns with a lattice-like graphic pattern.” Their attributes: They “break the horizon with a strong vertical expression. The abstract geometrical pattern can blend into almost any atmosphere. The distinctive open pattern allows vegetation to climb and grow, introducing vertical green in open spaces.” Ours have no vegetation, but do have blue LED lighting that can be seen starting around sunset and dusk.
  • Girders-StateStViewThe light poles are “Unilamp’s Contemporary Light Column / PMMA / LED / For Public Spaces: Pillar“. The sales copy for the light column states: “It is intentionally used for highlighting the surrounding structure works in modern architectural areas. Because of its eye-catching look, it is suitably applied in square, commercial areas and open spaces.”

The Plaza’s designer and construction administrator, landscape architect Mary Moore Wallinger, apparently chose them for the Plaza believing they signal to visitors that Schenectady is contemporary and future-oriented. On the other hand, she decided, belatedly and behind the scenes, to exile Lady Liberty from her Liberty Plaza home, for not being contemporary enough. [For that story, see our post “Lady Liberty is Timeless]

Chair Wallinger discussing Casino Pylon

Those changes from the approved Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, in my opinion at least, really do seem like tricks, especially since the decisions were made out of the public view by the same person who authored and promoted the original Implementation Plan in 2013, and who incidentally wields power at City Hall as the Chair of the City’s Planning Commission. Moreover, because (as explained below), they were not shown in the approved Implementation Plan or even as alternatives during its creation and approval, they seem like a bait-n-switch.

SURPRISE: Why were so many of us surprised by the choice of these pillars for the Plaza? What did we expect the lighting and sculpture to look like in Gateway Plaza? The public and their representatives who are asked to adopt or approve a plan look to drawings or other images (renderings) presented by the Plan creators in order to understand the intended appearance of a project when completed. Here are details from a rendering presented by Ms. Wallinger in drafts and in the Final Report of the City of Schenectady Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, which was adopted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor in 2013:

GPrenderSculpture.png . . [L] detail from Plan rendering of a wind turbine (and sculpture) located at the Plaza’s Central Focal Point, on the “Water Street Pedestrian Way” portion of Gateway Plaza, as seen from State Street. And,

 GPrenderLamps [L] rendering detail showing lamp poles along the Pedestrian Way (with a Venus de Milo replica and a modern red sculpture further down the path) . .

CENTRAL FOCAL POINT. The Implementation Plan’s Executive Summary has this to say about the Central Focal Point and Sculpture:

PubWorkshop-CentralFocalThe central focal point is intended to be a large sculptural wind turbine that would cleanly and abstractly capture the City of Schenectady’s historic legacy as a City of innovation while also celebrating its more recent role in both the arts and green technologies.

PubMtg-WhyWindTurbine When asked at the Implementation Plan’s Design Public Workshop, “Why a wind turbine and not something solar?” [image at left shows text in the Report], the design team representative (who I believe was Ms. Wallinger) gave the following response:

There is room for both technologies, but the wind turbine speaks to Schenectady’s past and present and would also say something about the environmental conditions in the park, adding another layer of interest. In addition to providing energy for the park, it would also serve as a piece of art that tells a story.

As actually implemented and constructed, of course, there is not a Wind Turbine in sight, just the “fast-rusting” Girders for focal point sculpture. Were there engineering or financial problems that made a working or purely artistic wind turbine impractical? When was the wind turbine concept abandoned and the search for a substitute made? When and why were the Cor-ten Girders selected? Were they, for example, the $20,000 item in the submitted expense estimates? Who participated in the change and new selection process? If the public was asked to participate in the discussion, I am not aware of it.

. .  [R] sample of attractive wind turbine HerculesWindTurbine-Eng

PubWorkshop-Lighting LIGHTING: When asked “How would lighting work in the park?” at the Public Design Workshop for the Implementation Plan [image to the right], the design team representative responded (emphases added):

There would be perimeter lighting at levels similar to those along the 400 block of State Street and it would be in the form of street lights at a pedestrian scale. There would also be lighting along the central axes and likely some low level lighting as needed to ensure visibility and safety within the park, especially since it will likely be used in the evenings by students and others if restaurants move into the area. The internal fixtures would likely be more contemporary and should utilize low energy technologies.

What about using bollard lighting? Response: There are certainly opportunities for some creative lighting, but maintenance needs to be considered and whichever fixtures are chosen will need to be easy to maintain, inexpensive to replace parts, durable, and efficient.

GP-lightpoledetail Having reviewed many proposals over the last several decades by government staffers and contractors, and by attorneys, the vague wording “The internal fixtures would likely be more contemporary” should have raised red flags for me and others even more familiar with the planning process. Including that phrase looks like an attempt by the designers to give themselves more than a little “wiggle room”, to later justify diverging from the light fixtures shown in the Plan rendering of the internal Pedestrian Way [image detail to the right]. When was the switch to the “light sabers” made, and who was included in that decision process?

How did we get something so different? You’ll have to ask Mary Moore Wallinger, whose LAndArt Studio is administering the construction of Gateway Plaza. She is Owner/Principal of LAndArt Studio and incidentally, as noted above, the Chair of the City of Schenectady Planning Commission. You might also ask her protectors-partners-sponsors, Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen and Mayor Gary McCarthy. [For more pictures of the finished Gateway Plaza, please see this posting at “suns along the Mohawk”].

  • One wag has suggested that maybe Ms. Wallinger had the wrong definition of “execute” in mind, when given the task of executing the approved Plan for Metroplex and the City.

Should we care? How should our elected officials (City Council or the County Legislature) and the public react, as a matter of either public process or aesthetics, when a result is so different from a proffered and approved Plan, with no intervening input from our representatives or the public?

GP-PlansChangeCollage

 . . De gustibus non est disputandum . . . .

HOW MUCH DISCRETION? The cliché is that “There is no accounting for taste” — that there is no objective way to resolve disputes over a matter of taste. That is certainly true about private matters, although promises should matter and be taken into account. But, when one person’s taste is thrust upon the public, in a visually inescapable and financially significant way, what safeguards should be in place? Here, we add the important factor of expectations created when a plan is produced after broad participation and then officially approved.

erasingG In Schenectady, approved plans have been changed on projects for preserving or replacing buildings at important locations — usually, with City Hall or the Planning Commission pointing to “engineering” reports that they say indicate a safety issue or unknown factors that make the approved plans impossible, impractical, or immensely more expensive, to achieve. No such reasons were available for the belated exiling of Lady Liberty from Liberty Park and its extension into Gateway Plaza. Instead, Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke of recommendations from “the Design Team,” giving no further details or explanation. The Design Team is, or is headed by, Mary Wallinger.

Similarly, as a member of the public who tries to keep abreast of such issues, I have heard of no reasons for the change in installed sculpture and lighting poles. I have no idea whether or not the changes were brought to the attention of the City Planning Office staff, Operations Bureau, the Mayor, or other City Hall officials or staffers, before the selections were made, purchased or installed.

LLspotwinter 

Given the great emphasis the City and County have placed on creating this “gateway” to Schenectady, and supposed influence on the image presented by the City, shouldn’t we expect more monitoring and oversight of the final product, especially its appearance and appeal? And, shouldn’t we require that significantly more attention be paid to the likely reaction of the public to significant stylistic and design changes to major elements of an approved plan?

  • IMG_8671Public Reaction? The best review of the Lamp Pillars that I have heard is that they look really cool at night. Of course, ignoring their bland appearance all day so that relatively few people might see the lamp portion at night is not a great trade-off.
  • Similarly, as to the girders, [1] Some passers-by think the off-the-shelf pillars must be remains from the 9/11 Tragedy at the World Trade Center or perhaps are an allusion to the City’s once-great industrial past. I do not know whether Ms. Wallinger was trying to make such references, despite her professed goal this year of honoring Schenectady’s future. [2] Close up, I find the blue light glowing in the Open-Pillar Lighting Columns fun to view and photograph. But, how many people will have that experience after sunset, especially when the glow is scarcely noticeable from State Street even in full darkness (perhaps because the light pillars are so bright)?
  • Even if you like the Girders and Sabers and have no problem in the abstract of having them in the Plaza, the process that brought them there is troublesome.

When Ms. Wallinger addressed City Council at a public meeting to explain her exiling of Lady Liberty, she asserted that “plan’s change” (without differentiating among initial brainstorming, drafts and alternatives under consideration, reaction to public input at workshops, and municipally-adopted plans, much less those with post-approval emergencies), and she insisted Lady Liberty was only a “small part” of the overall Plaza Plan, seemingly talking about square footage, not emotional and historic value. Her  breezy attitude about her authority over final design choices is especially worrisome to me, because she (through her alter ego landscape architecture studio or subcontractor roles with other firms) has been given design control over so many municipal projects, and because of her influence over the Planning Commission agenda and procedures, and its staff. Thus, her LAndArt Studio website proclaims:

 Principal and owner Mary Moore Wallinger has been working in the field of Landscape Architecture since 2000  – designing, managing and overseeing projects both large and small. Ms. Wallinger’s robust portfolio includes municipal parks and plazas, institutional and corporate campuses, site planning, master planning, urban design, sustainable site design, healing gardens, and streetscapes.

For example, in Schenectady City and County, Mary Wallinger has been the principal designer for:

dscf3324-001

How Much Discretion is Appropriate? Perhaps Schenectady City and County (and especially Metroplex) should take a close look at the various guidelines on the selection of public art that have been promulgated by interested professional and community groups (for example,  the Standards and Guielines adopted by the College Art Association, CAAA), to renew their commitment to broad participation and respect for public input. The CAAA guidelines, for example,  call for early public participation and reconsideration of a draft design after receiving public comments on the draft.

  • With Gateway Plaza, the public’s desire for the return of Lady Liberty and keeping the name of Liberty Park has been ignored after approval, while being placated during the plan-making process. [see images just below this blurb] In addition, the public’s ability to influence the appearance of the Plaza/Park was greatly undermined by switching two of the most important elements, with choices that are met at most with indifference.

 . .

Public Workshop comments on [above] name of the Plaza; [below] location of Lady Liberty

It seems that the City and County of Schenectady are giving too much discretion on important and highly-visible municipal projects to too few people. And, even after official approval, too much leeway to the person entrusted with implementing plans. Especially when it comes to highly visible pieces of public art or important public spaces, the public’s role and opinion must be protected and honored.

IMG_8665 . .

. . share this posting with this shorter URL:https://tinyurl.com/pillaried

. . hm: maybe a real pillory like one on display at Williamsburg VA would bring back a little history, at least for Halloween . . 

poorly planned safety railing erected along Mohawk Harbor trail

 mhtrail29octa1 update (Oct. 29, 2018):  With no help from City Hall or the County to delay the installation, the fence is finished, without the needed improvements. . . It is too close to the Path [should be 3′ clearance or more, not 2′], too short [should be 54 inches high, not 42″], and has no rub rail to protect bicyclists. There is adequate space for the preferred 3- to 5-foot buffer, but the installers were instructed to use a 2-foot buffer. The public was never given the chance to raise the issues and the regulators apparently never bothered. See discussion below.

MHTrail29OctD. .  photo to the right shows: 2-foot buffer between Path and guardrail/fence, and sufficient space on the riverbank side to widen the buffer for the safety of all path users and those who come merely to watch the River.

MHTrail29OctC . . MHTrail29OctB

ALCOTrailWestEnd . . westendwall-buffer . . at the west end of the Mohawk Harbor trail, the new fence along the riverbank has only a 24″ buffer from the edge of the path; while the wall on the other side of the path has a much safer 50″ inch buffer. 

. . above photos taken October 29, 2018 . . 

ORIGINAL POST . . October 15, 2018

“poorly planned safety railing going up along Mohawk Harbor trail”

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orangesafetyconeBelow is an email message that I sent today (October 15, 2018) to Christine Primiano, the City of Schenectady’s Chief Staff Planner. It outlines why I believe we must halt the installation of a railing/fence along the riverside of the ALCO Heritage Trail in Mohawk Harbor, and seek to achieve a better, safer guardrail. The 42″ high guardrail is being installed only two feet from the paved edge of the Hike-Bike Trail.  Best practices for shared-use paths and relevant regulations call for a 3-foot buffer (including the Bike Schenectady Master Plan adopted just last year). A taller guardrail, with a rub rail, is also needed. Following the regulations and guidelines can help increase the likelihood that hikers, cyclists, tourists and other visitors will avoid injury along the Mohawk Harbor trail and guardrail, and reduce liability exposure by the City and County.

[update (Nov. 5): I have received no reply from the Planning Office, nor Corporation Counsel, nor any other City or County official on these issues. When I visited the Trail on October 14, the fence was only 220′ long, with no cables; when I visited it on Friday, October 19, the guardrail installation had continued, extending at that time almost to the east end of the Landing Hotel, but still without the cable strung.]

IMG_8953 . . ALCOtrailFence2

From: David Giacalone
Subject: the Mohawk Harbor trail railing is not safe enough
Date: October 15, 2018 at 11:55:10 AM EDT
To: CHRISTINE PRIMIANO, Chief Planner, cprimiano@schenectadyny.gov
Cc: meidens@schenectadyny.gov, cfalotico@schenectadyny.gov, RGillen@schenectadymetroplex.org

Hello, Christine,

A guardrail is finally being erected between the steep riprap riverbank and ALCO Heritage Trail at Mohawk Harbor. For that I am grateful. But, there are so many ways a guardrail should and could have better protected cyclists, hikers, tourists, and River-watchers (including those in wheelchairs), that I wish there could have been an opportunity for comment by experts and the public.

Given that this is the end of the hike-bike season, and safety cones or caution tape could readily be used to line the top of the steep slope, I believe we should halt the current installation, which as of yesterday, was only about 220’ long, with no cable strung, and then decide how to do it in a way that is more appropriate from a safety point of view for all likely users. 

  • IMG_8956 Note, the fence being installed is taller than, but otherwise the same style and materials as the fencing along the Casino and Landing Hotel patios.
  • the first (gray) photo-collage below has shots taken on October 11 of the fencing; the last photo was taken yesterday, from the east end of Riverside Park
  • the second (green) photo-collage below demonstrates why I have been arguing that a safety rail is needed. A fuller discussion of those issues can be found at http://tinyurl.com/HarborTrailSafety


Was the design of this fence and its placement submitted to your Office for review? Did anyone have the opportunity to remind the County or Metroplex that the Bike Schenectady Master Plan states, in the Shared Use Path guidance section (p. B-21 of the Appendices):

“A 2 foot or greater shoulder on both sides of the path should be provided. An additional foot of lateral clearance (total of 3’) is required by the MUTCD for the installation of signage or other furnishings.”


BikeSchdy-TrailClearanceI hope no one in authority will try to argue that a fence 3/4 of a mile long is not a furnishing and not as troublesome as a sign post in presenting a hazard to trail users. A screen shot of the BikeSchenectady page is inserted to the right (click on it for a larger image]; also, click here to see a relevant page from Schenectady’s 2001 Master Bike Plan (mandating a three-foot clearance to obstacles); and a useful page from the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail Master Plan. , which explains (at 29, emphases added):

Railings

Railings are generally used to protect trail users from steep gradients located close to the edge of the trail. A general landscape guideline from the NYS Building Code is that if there is a sheer drop of 18” or greater then a railing should be provided. In New York State, all railings along bike paths should be 54” high. While there are no specific warrants for providing safety railings where steep slopes are adjacent to a trail, the NYS Highway Design Manual does indicate (Figure 18-16 Safety Railings Along Bicycle and Multi-Use Paths) that a 54” high (1.4 meter) safety rail be provided when a significant slope is closer than 5’ from the trail edge. Sound professional judgement should be used to assess whether the slope gradient, vertical drop or dangerous obstacles on the slope (trees, poles, concrete structures, etc.) warrant the installation of a safety rail.

IMG_8946 On Friday, the supervisor of the fence/rail installation firm (Access Anvil Corp.) told me that there was no obstacle to putting the structure three feet from the trail edge, but his specs called for two-feet. Of course, in many places along the slope, there is room for the railing to be the 3-5 feet that many studies and regulatory bodies have said is preferred for the shoulder. That would allow bikes or pedestrians making evasive moves a safer landing, and permit groups of river-watchers (and those in wheelchairs) to enjoy the River without worrying about hanging over or inadvertently stepping back onto the Trail.

For such an important location and project, we need a real discussion of how to do it right. For example, shouldn’t there be a “rub rail” so that handlebars do not catch on the rail? The main “silver” portion being installed is 42” high; the “black” section on the western end is apparently 5’ high. Why isn’t the entire railing 54” high? Would such a long railing/fence be aesthetically more pleasing if it were at different heights and distances from the trail edge? Etc., etc. I don’t know the answers, but I do know a discussion might have produced useful answers and maybe a consensus.

Before more of the railing is installed, let’s pause and decide that Mohawk Harbor and the people using it deserve as good a safety rail as best practices can achieve.

Thank you for your time and review of these important issues.

David

 P.S. I still have never been given an explanation for the failure to follow the C-3 zoning requirement that there be the customary two-foot shoulder PLUS ten additional feet buffer on the riverside of the Mohawk Harbor shared-used path. Nor, do I understand why the April 2015 trail submission, posted by the County as Riverside Trail Map, showing 10’ of mulched and planted shoulder between the trail and the steep riverbank was not followed, and we instead have a shoulder of 4 to 7 feet, covered in unstable gravel. [annotated detail from plat inserted at right of this p.s. blurb]

ALCOTrailFence11Oct

IMG_8987

ALCOTrailSafety

complaintbill In addition to the points made in the email to the Planning Office, I continue to wonder why taxpayers are paying 90% of the cost of constructing the bike-hike trail, and for the guardrail, when the Schenectady Zoning Code for the Harbor District [C-3, §264-14(1)E(4)] says that: “A single multi-use pedestrian and bicycle trail shall be constructed by the applicant.” “Applicant” refers to the developer or owner of the harbor property.

through September all added Casino revenue is still from Slots

The numbers are in for September 2018, and the scary “slotsification” process continues:

SlotsGrandmaFor the eight months since the first anniversary of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, all of the increased gambling revenue over the same 8 months of operation in 2017 has been produced by Slots/ETG revenues. Slots/ETG gambling is up significantly, while both Table Game and Poker Table revenues are down.

Here are the totals for February through September 2017 and February through September 2018 (compiled using figures from the Rivers Casino Weekly Website Report):

RiversRevenues-8monthCompare

YourAngryGrandma Slots are the most addictive form of casino gambling, and draw many of the most vulnerable members of our community. If the County and City of Schenectady are receiving more gaming tax revenues from the State because of the “improved” revenues during its second year of operation, those added receipts are coming from Slots Players alone. As we like to say around here, Grandma and Aunt Tillie are paying for your (measely) property tax reductions related to Rivers Casino.

A few thoughts on what Rivers is doing for Schenectady:

  1. Non-Gambling Revenues. Rivers Casino is attracting large crowds for many events, with the Mohawk Harbor Marina and other amenities, and the Landing Hotel. But, those customers are earning money for Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor’s owners and tenants that is taxed locally — sales, food and drink, room occupancy, etc. — at a far lower level than gambling revenue. All the publicity and boosterism Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor garner from our business and development “leaders”, and our Convention and Tourism Bureau, is profiting Rush Street Gaming, Galesi Group, and their associated businesses, far more than local property tax payers.
  2. Substitution/Cannibalization Effect.Non-gambling revenues at Mohawk Harbor are clearly taking dollars from other local businesses in the entertainment and leisure markets, surely leading to job reductions and business closing. [see a Casinos are Good for Business Poster used in Ontario, Canada]
  3. FossGaz-PGStop Problem Gambling Prevention. The County and City are still not acting to help reduce the incidence of Problem Gambling through Education that prevents gambling disorders by helping to make gambling a safe, occasional leisure activity, not an obsession or addiction. If Rivers Casino and soon Sports Betting are here to stay, we must educate our youth, and help adults learn to recognize the signs of problem gambling in themselves, their friends and loved ones, their employees, and co-workers. [More information on Prevention, here.]
  4. More Information Needed. When will our local media companies start demanding numbers from the County and City on things such as the effects on other local businesses; the number of Schenectady residents getting jobs at Rivers Casino, and the kinds of jobs; and extra expenses paid for by City and County and State taxpayers that should be paid for by Rivers Casino and the Galesi Group.

 

 

Photo-Rally for Lady Liberty

RallyCollage

  • The two dozen photos below were taken Friday evening, September 28, 2018, at Liberty Park [a/k/a Gateway Plaza], when a small, protest “photo rally” was held, centered on a Silhouette of the Statue of Liberty. The Silhouette Lady was a poor, two-dimensional stand-in for our missing replica Statue of Lady Liberty. The Statue had been standing in Liberty Park since 1950, and was removed for its protection during construction, in August 2017, due to the re-design of Liberty Park and its expansion into Gateway Plaza.
  • The Final Report of the City of Schenectady Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan called for the return of Lady Liberty after the completion of construction, which was accomplished in Spring of 2018. (Lady Liberty was even shown in the Plan’s cover sketch.) For a full discussion, see https://tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty .
IMG_8630

kids with views and dry shoes

.

Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation and Schenectady County cancelled their event “Groovin’@Gateway” [page removed by DSIC], with no public statement that it was being cancelled. Nevertheless, a dozen lovers of Lady Liberty and Her Park gathered at Liberty Park around 6 P.M. on Friday, September 28, 2018. DSIC’s Executive Director Jim Salengo called me on his own initiative for the first time late Wednesday morning, September 26. Salengo told me they had, despite all of the hard surfaces at the Park/Plaza for vendors and the public, already decided to cancel the event because he feared the grass/lawns/field would be too soggy. (DSIC has been cutting the grass at the new Plaza, according to Mr. Salengo.) It did rain on Thursday and for much of Friday morning, but the forecasted sun did a great job drying out all the grassy areas.  Jim also told me he had not heard I was planning a Rally for Lady Liberty until I mentioned it during that phone conversation.

1IMG_8608 . . IMG_8575

. . above: [L] Silhouette Statue of Liberty with sign bearing the theme of the Photo-Rally (click on the image for a larger version); [R] Silhouette standing at the center of the Park’s still-empty Modern Sculpture fixture, which was the approximate original location of Schenectady’s replica Statue of Liberty. The Silhouette is only 76″ tall, and has no pedestal. The replica Statue is 100″ high, and had a pedestal 7′ tall.

IMG_8600-001

GP-Rendering-LibertyDetailabove: Silhouette Lady stands at the location designated by the Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan for the return of Lady Liberty, along State Street, near the CDTA bus shelter. To the right is a detail from a Final Plan rendering depicting Lady Liberty returned at that location.

. . share this post with a shorter URL: https://tinyurl.com/LLPhotoRally

. . . For a larger version of an image in the Slideshow below, pause on the photo, right-click, and choose View Image in a New Tab. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

.

As you can see from the Slideshow, it was a lovely early-autumn evening at Liberty Park, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood, including the friendly patrolman. As happens whenever I speak with strangers in Liberty/Gateway Park, there was enthusiastic support for our position demanding the return of Lady Liberty. More than once I heard, “but there’s so much room here for the statue.” My handout photo of Lady Liberty in her Park in September 2016 was much in demand at the bus stop:

LadyInPark6x4BE

BTW: Happily, the largest and grandest tree survived the redesign of Liberty Park.

Had the Groovin’@Gateway event been held Friday evening, we would have celebrated the new public space, and done some gentle advocacy on behalf of Lady Liberty. Whether Plaza patrons and revelers were warmed with craft brews or not, I have no doubt “conversions” to our cause would have come readily, AND no one would have come up with a reasonable excuse for not returning Lady Liberty to her Home.

Frankly, because designer Mary Wallinger no longer wants the Statue in “her” Plaza; or because the Mayor and Chairman Gillen want to please Mary; are not good enough reasons. Common sense, public support, historic preservation principles, and the integrity of the public planning process and the City Council review and approval process (Resolution No. 2013-206), all cry out for the return of the replica Statue of Liberty to her home of 67 years.

mayorgarymccarthy2013bw In a Time Union article last March: Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy told reporter Paul Nelson:  “I’m sure whatever decision I make that Mr. Giacalone will be opposed to it.” The article also stated that the Mayor “will soon make his final decision public.” Six and a half months later, Mayor McCarthy is still saying he has no statement on Lady Liberty’s fate, but “has something in the works.” Of course, with no engineering or other safety issue, and no financial crisis to blame, there should be no decision to make: Execute the Plan, don’t kill it.

Mr. Mayor, you can make Mr. Giacalone and many others very happy by simply saying, “Of course, we will fulfill the Implementation Plan and return the Statue to Liberty Park, her home.” What he should “have in the works” is some funding for the Veterans Memorial at Steinmetz Park, and an apology to the good people of Goose Hill for raising their hopes that a City-wide treasure would be moving to their Park.

IMG_8575-001 The cardboard Silhouette Statue was a pale representation of our real Lady Liberty Friday evening, but seeing it at what the Plan called the “Central Sculpture and Seating” area, on or very close to the Statue’s original location, makes it clear to me that the Lady would look and feel fine at that location.  Last March, we noted at this website:

  1. Every public comment about the Liberty statue was positive for keeping her at the Plaza (App. G, at 94, 110 of the Final Report), with notable support to make Her more prominent, keeping Lady Liberty at her original location in the renovated “urban plaza” area.

Mary Wallinger or DSIC staff should have noticed that for much of the day, there are CDTA buses blocking the view of the spot next to the Bus Shelter from State Street. So, putting Lady Liberty on the still empty sculpture fixture, which should feel like Home, should be fully considered, to give Her the prominence she deserve. The replica is 100″ tall (Lawrence the Indian is 66″) and could command that space, even on a pedestal shorter than her original 7-foot pedestal.

  • A portion of the funds saved not buying another “modern sculpture” piece (the three rusted girders apparently cost $20,000) could surely be used for the Steinmetz Park Veterans Memorial.

Finally, as has been said before at this site:

The excuse that Lady Liberty is not contemporary enough for that Plaza is simply silly. Designer Wallinger embraced keeping the Statue in the new Park/Plaza throughout the design process. There is no symbol that better fulfills the Implementation Plan’s goal of “celebrating our past, present, and future.” Lady Liberty is Timeless.

p.s. Does anybody think the youngest and eldest members of the Schenectady community want Lady Liberty exiled for her failure to ooze the contemporary spirit? “Contemporary” often means “temporary,” but — as we like to say — in America Liberty is timeless.

IMG_8589

IMG_8665

. . above and below “contemporary enough Plaza fixtures” . . 

IMG_8626

Rally “Photo Op” for Lady Liberty on Sept. 28 at 6 PM

Photo4Liberty UPDATE (Sept. 26, 2018): DSIC has cancelled Friday’s “Groovin’@Gateway”, saying that they fear the grounds will be too soggy, even if rain does stop by Thursday or Friday morning. (They have, in fact, taken all mention of it off the DSIC website, not even bothering to show it as cancelled on their Events calendar, and taking down its webpage.) Nonetheless, as I say on my Facebook Page,

 Despite the Cancellation of Groovin’@Gateway, let’s have a PHOTO-OP for LADY LIBERTY, at the same time, 6 PM FRIDAY, to highlight our hope that Lady Liberty will soon be brought back to her home in Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza. There will be no worry over getting in the way of the DSIC Event, no stress, just some fun romping around with signs and snapshots with Silhouette Lady Liberty. I suggest:

SilLiberty 6 PM Friday, Sept. 28 we hold a Quick Photo-op Rally for LADY LIBERTY’s RETURN.

— at the Central Sculpture area, the Lady’s pre-construction location for 67 years
— a 76” Silhouette of Lady Liberty will be there (photo on right), with foam Liberty crowns
— I’ll bring props and signs (Family-rated)
— and, hand-out souvenir 4×6 photos of Lady Liberty in her Park (see photo below)
— and, my camera and monopod to capture the event

It will be a short session, unless some folks want to schmooze a bit. So, please be there at 6 PM.

Partially cloudy skies should mean great sunset potential. There is no rain forecast for Friday afternoon or evening.

LadyInPark6x4BE

Please Join Us!

. . for more info see:  https://tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty . .

ORIGINAL POSTING 

This Friday, September 28, 2018, Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation  and Schenectady County are throwing an event called “Groovin’@Gateway“, so the public can

GroovinLogo . . experience Downtown Schenectady’s newest public space, Gateway Plaza. Enjoy live music, food & craft beer vendors, and family art activities in this beautiful new destination at State Street and Washington Avenue at the western gateway to downtown. Free and open to the public.

September 28, 5:30-7:30pm
Gateway Plaza, 12 State Street

We think this event is the perfect opportunity, while celebrating the new public space, for a peaceful, neighborly Rally asking that Liberty Park’s Statue of Liberty replica be returned to her home, as was promised by the City in its Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan.
  • The Rally will take place at 6 PM at the Central Sculpture Area (near Washington Avenue and State Street, across from SCCC), where Lady Liberty stood from 1950 to 2017.
Here is a printable, jpg. flyer announcing and explaining the Rally; click on it to see a larger version. Please help to distribute it widely, including on Facebook pages.
.
Rally4Lady
  • All are welcome, young, old and in-between. Silhouette Lady will appear and bring some Liberty Crowns for the kids.
  • LadyTree Come join lovers of Lady Liberty and Her Park to ask that the Plan to return Lady Liberty, approved by the public and City Hall in 2012-2013, be implemented: Bring Back the Lady to Best Celebrate the Past, Present & Future of our City and County, and to support preservation and the integrity of our planning process.
  • For more information about the very avoidable controversy over where Lady Liberty will be relocated now that reconstruction of her Park and creation of Gateway Plaza are complete, see https://tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty .
  • GazLTE-JWilson27Jun2018 Click the following link for a collection of Letters to the Editors written in support of bringing Lady Liberty home.
  • Leave a message, if you would like to help with the Rally.
  • Share this posting with this shorter URL: https://tinyurl.com/Rally4Lady
  • See you at Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza!

. . fortunately, I took photos of the Lady in Her Park in September 2016, as soon as I heard she would be removed during the re-construction:

LadyParkCollage2016e

.

LadyInParkSept2016

Lady Liberty in Liberty Park, Sept. 2016

more doldrums after River Casino’s best week & month

.  .it’s back to Doldrums Along the Mohawk . . 

As the Daily Gazette reported on September 9th, the week ending September 2, 2018 was the best week in the history of Rivers Casino for generating gambling revenue, with the first $4 million GGR at the Casino. In addition, August 2018 was the best single month yet at the Mohawk Harbor casino.  [See “Rivers has best month ever but loses top spot among N.Y. casinos: Schenectady casino grosses $14.4 million but new Catskills gambling destination tops it with $15 million” (Daily Gazette, by John Cropley, September 9, 2018)]

But, even a Best Month and Best Week should not make Government tax-counters and citizen taxpayers particularly optimistic. As reporter John Cropley noted:

The monthly numbers do not, by themselves, indicate a trend. Annual or year-to-date figures are better for drawing such conclusions.

So far in 2018, Rivers is averaging $12.94 million a month in gross gaming revenue and $219,131 a month in tax payments to Schenectady.

For 2017, it averaged $11.66 million per month in gross gaming revenue and sent an average of $189,136 in taxes to Schenectady.

`Those numbers demonstrate a 10% growth in average monthly Gross Gambling Revenue at Rivers Casino Schenectady. As we have argued before, 10% more than last year’s 30% shortfall from Rush Street Gaming’s projections for the first year of operation at its Schenectady Casino is not exactly an impressive turn-around. That is especially true when we consider that Rivers Casino has achieved or experienced virtually its entire “Wait Until We Have” List. – – from the opening of its Landing Hotel, to a year of rentals at its 200-unit River House apartments, to thousands coming to Harbor Jamboree concerts, and much more.

Beyond the fiscal doldrums, despite one very big Table Game week at the end of August, we fear the Slotsification Undertow. For the seven months since Rivers Casino’s 1st Anniversary, February through August,

  • Total GGR increased 10.6% over the same months in 2017
  • But, both Table Game and Poker GGR are down (respectively, down 3.4% and 9.0%)
  • While GGR from Slots/ETG has increased 19.1%

Increased revenues from Slots undoubtedly means an increase in Problem Gambling and gambling addiction in our community, with all of the damage to the gamblers, their families and friends, and our entire society. That added hazard for Schenectady is especially true if slots players are predominately local residents.

As we wrote last month:

AddictionByDesign-Schüll-CoverRev The New York Times article cited above, Slot Machines Are Designed to Addict(October 10, 2013), gives a good explanation of how/why slots are so addictive. It was written by Natasha Dow Schüll, and anthropologist and the author of Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas”(Princeton University Press, 2013).

The Week After Labor Day: One last reason for City and County leaders to show restraint in counting unhatched gambling tax eggs: Although week-to-week comparisons can be tricky, the week after Labor Day appears to have many unique characteristics for the American workforce and families. Here is how that Week after Labor Day, the first full week of September at Rivers Casino, compared to the cognate week for 2017:

Compared to the week ending 9/10/17, the week ending 9/9/18 at Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor saw:

  • Only a 2.6% increase in total GGR
  • A reduction of 21.4% in Table Game GGR
  • A reduction of 10.9% in Poker Table GGR
  • An increase in Slots/ETG GGR of 11.7%

August continues Casino tilt to Slots

In the seven months since its 1st Anniversary celebration in February, Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady has seen an underwhelming increase of 10% in its Total Gross Gambling Revenue compared to the first seven months of the Casino’s operation. Frankly, considering Rivers only taking in about 70% of its first-year revenue projection, and the coming into existence of so many of its “wait-untils,” a ten percent increase is simply not all that impressive.

RiversRevCompareAug Moreover, after tabulating the numbers for the first four weeks of August 2018, it is clear that the “slotsification” we worried about last month continues.  Slots/ETG revenue is up 19.7% from February through August, but both Table Game and Poker Game revenues are down compared to the same months in 2017. Therefore, the vaunted increase at Schenectady’s Casino continues to be all from Slots — all from the most addictive and victimizing form of casino gambling.

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 Here are the number totals for February to August 2018: HotSlotsFacade

RiversRevs-Feb-Aug

  • 68.7%: Slots/ETG were 63.2% of the Total Gross Gambling Revenues at Rivers Casino in its first 7 months of operation (Feb. to August of 2017). That percentage has increased to 68.7% of Total GGR for the same months of 2018, the first seven months of the second year of operation of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor.

We are, therefore, in the very Catch-22 situation that any thinking person (especially those not hoping to cash in on the coming of a casino to Schenectady, or any urban location), and any thoughtful politician or leader (especially those realistically looking after the interests of the entire community) would have foreseen and avoided when the Casino-In-Schenectady process started in 2014.

  1. Catch22logo Revenues will never reach the levels that were used to justify the risks to the community from an urban casino.
  2. Attempting to increase the revenue levels at the Casino will almost certainly increase the social cost, including increasing the incidence of problem gambling, and especially increasing slots revenue.
  3. Politicians, like Ass. Phil Steck (“from Mohawk Harbor”), will suggest tax breaks for the Casino owners and developer, that will actually reduce the amount received by the State, City and County, and increase profits for the Casino Gang, which does not need to meet its phony projections to reap a profit.
  4. No significant efforts will be made to bring the community the kinds of Problem Gambling Education and Prevention efforts that might ameliorate the social pain that is and will be generated by a casino in our midst, because the State and City do not want to lose the gambling tax revenues and the Casino does not want to prevent the evolution of more and more problem gamblers, who fuel their profits.
  5. Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor efforts aimed at Millennials, who prefer drink (esp. craft beer), food, and live entertainment to gambling, will aid the bottom line of the Casino Gang, without a corresponding increase in revenue to the State or municipalities.

Slotsification on the Mohawk

SmokinHotSlotsB

a Smoking Patio with slots & drinks means non-stop slots play!!

The lower-than-projected total of gambling dollars and customers brought in by Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in its first year of operation disappointed just about everybody. (See, e.g., our post on Projections vs. Reality.) So, it is understandable that the increase so far this year in Gross Gambling Revenue [the amount bet minus winnings paid out, called “GGR”] has been broadly welcomed in our community. Nonetheless, Sara Foss at the Schenectady Gazette was correct to voice concerns last Sunday about the significant increase of gambling revenues this year earned from Slots and other Electronic Table Games [ETG]. See “Foss: Increase in casino revenue comes with social costs” (Sunday Gazette, Aug. 5, 2018).  That is because the clear consensus of experts and observers is that slots are the most addictive form of casino gambling.

emptyPockets Indeed, from the perspective of potential social costs and harm to gamblers and their families, the situation is very serious. I’ve tabulated the numbers, and it is clear that additional revenue from SLOTS/ETG (Electronic Table Games) is alone fueling the increased gambling revenue at Rivers Casino in its 2nd year of operation. I call this process “Slotsification”.

RiversSlots Below is a comparison of the first six months in which Schenectady’s Rivers Casino was operating [Feb. to July of 2017] with the same six months in 2018, after one full year of operation. I used the most recent Monthly report posted at the Gaming Commission’s site, and the Casino’s weekly reports.
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FEBRUARY to JULY 2018 – Gross Gambling Revenue [GGR] at Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor (Schenectady), compared to February to July 2017, the first six months of operation at Rivers Casino:
 
TOTAL GGR – 9.7% increase [$6,830,160]
    2017 Feb-July            $70,080,214
    2018 Feb-July            $76,910,374 
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SLOTS/ETG GGR – 19.3% increase [$8,510,139]
    2017 Feb-July            $44,054,616
    2018 Feb-July            $52,564,755 
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TABLE GAME GGR – – down 6.0% [$1,297,613]
   2017 Feb-July             $22,886,161
   2018 Feb-July             $21,588,548 
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POKER TABLE GGR – – down 11.7% [$368,091]
   2017 Feb-July            $3,145,137
   2018 Feb-July             $2,777,046 
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In sum, Total GGR is up almost 10% at Rivers Casino, with Slots/ETG revenue up 19.3%, but both Table Game and Poker Game GRR down compared to the same months in 2017. The increase is all from Slots.
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In addition, looked at in the aggregate, Slots/ETG revenues were 63% of GGR in Feb-July of 2017; but they were 68% of GGR in Feb-July of 2018. It would be helpful to know whether more people are choosing to play slots, or whether slots players are playing longer.
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 follow-up (February 9, 2019): The figures for the full 12 months of February 2018 to January 2019, Rivers Casino’s 2nd year of operation, continue the Slotsification process. Total GGR was up 9.25%, with Slots up 14.7%, but Table Game and Poker Table revenues down slightly over the first 12 months of operation at Rivers Casino. (Click on this chart for a larger version.)
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RiversRevs1stTwoYrs
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Furthermore, for the full year since the 1st Anniversary of Rivers Casino, Slots/ETG revenues were 68% of the Total GRR for the Casino.
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  • AddictionByDesign-Schüll-CoverIt may be merely a coincidence that this is happening after Rivers Casino operated for a year in Schenectady, but “Studies by a Brown University psychiatrist, Robert Breen, have found that individuals who regularly play slots become addicted three to four times faster (in one year, versus three and a half years) than those who play cards or bet on sports.”  From Slot Machines Are Designed to Addict(New York Times, October 10, 2013, by Natasha Dow Schüll). 
 
Compare other Casinos: Although Slots revenue is up somewhat in Las Vegas recently, slots have been down or sluggish in other regions. Notably, not one of Rush Street’s three other casinos (one in Illinois at Des Plaines; and two in Pennsylvania, SugarHouse in Philadelphia, and Pittsburg Rivers) has had more than a small uptick in slots this year, and many months have been down. [Click for an example of recent Pa. stats; the Des Plaines IL Rivers Casino shows only a 1.32% increase in their slots category (“EGD”) for the first half of 2018; see p. 4 of this Report.]
 
Is Rivers Casino in Schenectady trying to “slotsify” its casino revenue, to maximize its profits? Is this also a result of growing problem gambling among Schenectady’s slots players, along with a growing indifference by those who like table games to spending time along the Mohawk?
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  • What about Millennials? Has Rivers also decided to make more money by luring in millennials, who spend on food, drink and entertainment, rather than on gambling when at Mohawk Harbor? That helps Rush Street and Galesi Group profits, but does not increase gambling tax revenue receipts for the City and County. [See the article on Millennials and Casinos quoted at length below.] The Casino does not have to reach its bloated projections to be a business success. 
 
Whatever the cause, Slotsification will increase the social costs to individuals, families and the community from having this Casino in our midst. If the portion of Rivers Casino revenue from slots keeps growing, it will surely lead to the very situation casino opponents most feared: Significant growth in problem gambling and all its consequences, but with a disappointing boost in revenues for the City and County, far less than our “leaders” promised when selling the project and deciding to take the risk of inviting an urban casino to Schenectady.
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AssPhilSteck Will community leaders such as NYS Assemblyman Phil Steck, who say we must help the Casino succeed, turn a blind eye to the added hazard to our Community? Steck, who we’ve been calling “the Assemblyman from Mohawk Harbor” since his letter in support of Rivers Casino in June 2014, recently wrote that “Revenue raising is paramount”, after bemoaning the negative effect on the poor and vulnerable. This is, of course, the dilemma casino opponents saw when they opposed bringing one to Schenectady. The monograph “Poverty and Casino Gambling in Buffalo” (Center for the Public Good, by Sam Magavern and Elaina Mulé, January 19, 2011, gives a good summary of the dangers for already-struggling cities that turn to casinos for revenue. And, it highlights the obvious:

“any trend away from slot machines, which are the most lucrative form of casino gambling, would hurt the state’s revenues from casinos. [quoting Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission]

And, consider “State Gambling Revenue Takes Hit as Millennials Bring New Habits to Casinos” (Pew Trust, Stateline Article, by Elaine S. Povich, Sept. 15, 2015), which opens with this statement:

Casinos across the nation are suffering from a generation gap, especially at the slot machines, as young people seek more exotic electronic games like the ones they can play on smartphones from anywhere.

That’s a problem not just for casino operators, but for the 23 states that rely on revenue from casino taxes, particularly from lucrative slots, to help balance their budgets and fund new priorities.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

see-no-evil-monkeyBlue It is easy to be flippant and say, “Don’t ask Casino Opponents, we told you so,” back when our elected and appointed political leaders, and businesses hoping for a Casino Gravy Train, refused to even acknowledge the risks. Well, we did tell you so (e.g., this post), precisely because we feared just this situation: Big Problems without Palatable Solutions. No Answers for getting out of the Casino Casualty Syndrome and the related suffering of families and individuals; lots of temptation to seek more favors for the Casino, such as legislation with tax reductions or gimmicks (such as a marketing allowance), or spending $2 million on a Large Vessel Dock along Mohaw Harbor; plus, a lot of uncertainty and pain for employees at the Casino and associated businesses, if the Casino declines slowly, and especially if it fails and closes.

316-vector-no-evil-monkeys Even if they secretly know the damage that is likely to happen to our Community, the temptation for our “leaders” to push on is great, refusing to confess their short-sighted mistakes, pressuring local businesses and civic groups to patronize Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, and looking for legislative “solutions.” One thing for sure, the cognitive dissonance that we hear from politicians like Phil Steck does not help one bit. The Assemblyman tells us:

Perhaps some day there will be no casino at Mohawk Harbor. No one can predict the future; it is sensible to plan for an alternative. But, Rivers is here, so we need it to be as successful as possible. One constituent wrote to me on this subject citing the old adage: “Let’s take the lemons and make them into lemonade.”

LemonLawLogo No one should be surprised that the Assemblyman from Mohawk Harbor offers us no Lemonade Recipe and suggests no likely ingredients for the mix (other than a “not-a-bailout” tax break in the form of a marketing allowance that is too silly to even call specious). There is no secret, magical “sugar” to sweeten our Casino Lemons, and no law that will tow the wreck away. We are all left puckering up, and wincing, as the future rushes toward Slotsnectady, a City that once could Light and Haul the World, but now glories in “smart” lamp-posts, its homely-but-bossy Casino, and its beer-cultured Renaissance.

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. . this is one of the mastheads we used when this website was called StopTheSchenectadyCasino.com:

noalcocasino-mastb1

. . they gambled with Schenectady’s future, putting possible revenues ahead of the social costs, and acting as if there was nothing to lose . .

Appendix: Why are Slots so Addictive?

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