Here’s what we said about locating the proposed Schenectady Casino so close to Union College in our OUR STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino, submitted on Sept. 22 to the Location Board at its Capital Region Public Comment Event. We were, of course, unsuccessful in preventing a Schenectady Casino, but the concerns naturally remain. For a fuller discussion of the issues, see our posting “what will the casino mean for Union College students?”:
Schenectady’s Stop the Schenectady Casino group believes that placing a casino facility at Mohawk Harbor, in such close proximity to the residence halls and other residential housing of Union College, and less than a mile from Schenectady County Community College, unnecessarily endangers the welfare of many young gamblers and potential gamblers. No other competing application poses a similar risk to young adults of gambling age by making access so easy and quick.
As can be seen in Attachment 1 and Attachment 6 (above), Mohawk Harbor’s casino facility, located at 450 Nott Street, is a short stroll from virtually all of Union College’s student housing, and only one short block from its largest residence hall at 301 Nott Street.
There is a significant amount of literature and scholarship on college students and gambling, including the increased susceptibility of younger gamblers, alcohol’s connection to problem gambling, and the connection between proximity and increased gambling. The Handout on Problem Gambling from Union College’s Wicker Wellness Center, notes, ”Gambling is in some ways a ‘norm’ among college students. The most popular games are casino activities such as cards and gambling machines.”
The risk is heightened because Rush Street Gaming is experienced in marketing to the Young Gambler and appears to be most desirous of gaining their trade. For example, Rush Street Gaming’s SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia has introduced a “simplified craps game” called Props & Hops (purportedly alluding to craps terminology), which was developed because “A lot of people, especially the younger kids, are intimidated about craps.” They have also greatly increased the number of poker tables at SugarHouse, a game particularly popular with college students. Their Schenectady Application shows that the Schenectady casino will have a dozen poker tables in a 3000 sq. ft. hall.
Perhaps more worrisome is a recent Report stating that Rush Street Gaming is investing millions of dollars with the aim of becoming the industry leader in “building a bridge” between children playing casino-like games on social media and smartphones and their going to brick-n-mortar casinos to do real gaming once they are old enough. Knowing that the earlier you begin to gamble, the more likely you are to gamble often and obsessively, Schenectady’s proposed casino operator is sowing the seeds digitally to grow the next generation of problem gamblers.
In its study “Betting on Kids Online,” the hospitality workers union UniteHere argues that Rush Street Gaming
“has quietly pursued an Internet strategy that has sidestepped gambling regulators while also explicitly allowing players as young as 13″ to play their virtual games.
If Rush Street thinks it is worthwhile to groom adolescents into future casino customers, what will Rush Street Gaming do to prepare 18, 19 and 20 year olds down the block who already love poker and “keggers”?
Rush Street’s denial in its Application that proximity and access increase the prevalence of problem gambling also suggests that they need a significant amount of sensitivity training before being allowed to operate near so many potential young gamblers. It is ludicrous for the Applicant to brush off worries about creating more problem gamblers, saying, “the addition of gaming at the Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in the prevalence rates in the local area”, because people in this area have already been able to travel for slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut. Other things being equal, we hope this Board will choose to locate the Capital Region casino farther than a short stroll away from a couple thousand potential young gamblers.
 For example, see “Festering Beneath the Surface: Gambling and College Students, by the Illinois Dept. of Health Services; “College Problem Gambling Literature Review“, Jim Emshoff, Ph.D., Georgia State University (Jan. 2008).
[Also see our posting “what will the casino mean for Union College students?”, and the Young Gamblers listing on our ISSUES page for an extensive list of related resources.]
 See SugarHouse Press Release, April 30, 2014; and “Sugarhouse Develops a New, Simplified Craps Game For Younger Players“, CBS6 Philadelphia, May 1, 2014; SugarHouse Props & Hops Brochure.
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follow-up: Note: in addition to the many issues discussed below, the Casino will have a giant pylon sign structure at the corner of Front and Nott Streets, just a little over a block from the College Park Residence Hall. it will be 80′ tall, with a very large, inner-illuminated white sign declaring the name of the casino on top, and 32′-tall LCD screens on each of its v-wings, with nothing taller than a railroad underpass between the sign and the dormitory. See, e.g., “bait and switch along the Mohawk“.
– click here for a summary of our major reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino –