Bring Online Poker to New York Show your support

Rivers Casino General Manager Setting Sail Away From Struggling Casino

sailboat on Nile River
After less than a year, the leader of Rivers Casino Schenectady is stepping down. General Manager Mary Cheeks announced earlier this month she would seek opportunities away from the property.

During her tenure, Cheeks oversaw day-to-day operations of the casino. She was also the public face of the property. Rivers Casino opened in early February. So far, the casino is severely underperforming in terms of revenue.

Cheeks chose to step down from NY casino

Cheeks worked with Rivers Casino’s parent company, Rush Street Gaming, since 2010. Prior to accepting her post in Schenectady, she served as CFO of the Rivers Casino property in Pittsburgh.

Cheeks’ affiliation with Rivers Schenectady dates back to when construction on the property began in summer 2015. In that time, she was the one speaking with the press about the new commercial New York casino.

The company issued a statement about Cheeks’s departure earlier this month. In it, Rush Street CEO Greg Carlin hoped for good things his former employee.

“We’re grateful for Mary’s many contributions and wish her all the best.”

In addition to helping launch the new casino, Cheeks also played an integral role in diversity programs at Rush Street. In her absence, previous Assistant General Magnager Justin Moore will oversee day-to-day operations.

Is Cheeks jumping ship the sign of a problem?

It is no secret Rivers Casino is struggling to meet very lofty expectations. Expected to bring in around $220 million in first-year revenue, the casino will fall short of that mark by around $80 million.

That is not to say the property is without successes though. Its larger competitor, del Lago, is coming up even shorter on the revenue front. Additionally, the casino quickly established itself as a major poker destination in the Empire State, an important niche.

Really though, 2017 is a disappointing start for the resort casino, which hoped to be a destination venue in the vein of Las Vegas properties.

Revenue is not the only problem either. In fact, prior to Cheeks’s departure, she had to answer questions from the press regarding the property’s turnover rate.

Back in August, the Albany Business Journal reported 475 Rivers employees either quit or were fired in the first six months of operation. With just shy of 1,500 employees total, that amount represents a turnover rate of 32.5 percent.

At the time, Cheeks of all people issued a statement suggesting the press was overblowing the numbers. She claimed it was consistent with industry rates for new casinos with many employees needing to go through more training than usual. She also added:

“Rivers is a large extended family and team members have unwavering support for their career goals and personal aspirations.We look forward to continuing to fulfill our commitment of bringing high-quality jobs with great benefits to the Capital Region and encourage interested applicants to visit our website for more information.”

Given the public nature of her role, it will be interesting to see whether or not Rivers Schenectady can find another spokesperson in addition to a CEO.

Jessica Welman

About

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.