All five boroughs now have checked in with a plan to build a Las Vegas-style casino in their corner of New York City.
Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella is the latest official to make a pitch for one of the three downstate casino licenses that will be under consideration by the New York State Gaming Commission beginning this month. Since two sites, the racinos at Yonkers and Aqueduct, are considered likely license recipients because of advantages in speed to market, most gambling industry observers consider only one license to be truly at large.
“Staten Island is one of the few places that doesn’t have any type of gambling in the downstate area and we just think that this is one of those areas that should be considered a destination point,” Fossella told reporters at a press conference last week, not far from where a free ferry drops off passengers from lower Manhattan. “Just envision a casino here, perhaps a hotel in the likes of the Mohegan Sun where people can come on a day like today and enjoy the views, enjoy the vistas. Just enjoy what’s behind us.”
Last spring, New York legislators gave the gaming commission the go-ahead to issue three Class III licenses to create full-service casinos with slot machines, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, poker, blackjack, and other table games at New York City-area sites. The next step is to seat a Gaming Facility Location Board, which will issue requests for applications from interested parties.
At Monday’s gaming commission meeting, the agency approved three of the five members of the board. They are: Quenia Abreu, president of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit membership organization; Vicki L. Bean, a professor of law at New York University; and Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University. The commission will continue to review potential candidates for the two remaining seats, spokesman Brad Maione said.
Among the competing bids are one by Wynn Resorts and Related Companies to build a casino at Hudson Yards in midtown Manhattan; a plan by Coney Island mogul John Catsimatidis to team with Thor Equities to build in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn; a notion by Bronx assemblywoman Amanda Septimo to build in the Hunts Point area of that borough; Mets owner Steven Cohen’s vision of building a casino at Willets Point near Citi Field in Queens; and competing bids by the Shinnecock tribe and Legends Entertainment, partially owned by the Yankees, to build in Long Island.
In April, New York state approved the NYSGC to issue three Class III licenses to create three full-service casinos in the downstate region. New York Mayor Eric Adams, who will have a seat on the location board, has said he would like two of the casinos located inside the city limits.
Yonkers and Aqueduct are considered likely sites for future full-service casinos because they could convert quickly from video-terminal gaming to table games and already have political backing in the area. New York currently has four full-service upstate casinos. The city projects are drawing plentiful interest from casino operators, who have long eyed the New York’s 8.5 million municipal residents and 68.6 million annual visitors as the largest untapped market in the U.S.
The high-stakes race among bidders already has created questions about the integrity of the process, particularly since much of the action so far has been behind closed doors.
A close confidant of Adams, Timothy Pearson, had to end his employment with Resorts World, which owns the Aqueduct racino, this summer due to conflict of interest questions, since he also worked for the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The New York Times reported over the weekend that Pearson earns $242,000 from his city job, making him one of the highest-paid employees in municipal government.
The gaming location board will determine the minimum capital investment requirements of each of the bids, as well as whether it may include the price of the land where the facility would be located. By law, the license fee will be no less than $500 million. The tax rate has yet to be determined by the gaming commission, but will instead be part of a competitive application process, so long as it is at least 25% for slots and 10% for other gross gaming revenue.