Amid Frustrations On Long Process, Lawmakers Propose Bill That Would Expedite Timeline

Written By Grant Lucas on May 22, 2024
Image of the New York State Capitol for a story on two senators introducing a bill to speed up the downstate casino licensing process.

The downstate licensing timeline has frustrated many, and now two New York lawmakers are looking to pass a bill to speed up the process.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo has sponsored S9673, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker to accelerate the approval of applications and awarding of three downstate casino licenses in the New York City area.

In 2022, lawmakers authorized the state to begin the process of awarding those last three downstate licenses. The hope, of course, was for state officials to complete the review process in relatively short order and for the Empire State to reap the benefits of thousands of new jobs and millions in tax revenue for the state.

The original legislation was passed, the bill’s justification states, “with the aim of bolstering economic growth in the gaming sector.”

The justification continues:

“The revised legislation is designed to prevent stagnation and ensure that the licensing process moves forward efficiently, supporting the state’s goals of economic enhancement through the gaming industry. This change is not only vital for meeting the state’s developmental timelines but also crucial for maintaining investor confidence and community engagement in the planned gaming projects.”

Bill moves up NY casino licensing timeline to March ’25

In the bill, Addabbo – chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering committee who represents the 15th District in Queens – and Park – who represents the 21st District in Brooklyn – effectively set a date of March 31, 2025 for state officials to select the three winners of the application process.

In order to meet that timeline, the bill also sets a deadline of July 31, 2024 for all interested parties to submit their official applications. The Gaming Facility Location Board will then begin its preliminary review of those submissions, which will determine if a bidder’s application “is sufficient to be delivered to the appropriate Community Advisory Committee” within 30 days.

To be considered “sufficient” by the GFLB, an applicant will need to supply several pieces of information, including:

  • Capital investment
  • Number of jobs created by the gaming facility
  • Amenities included in proposed development
  • Benefits of site location and an “estimated recapture rate of gaming-related spending by residents travelling to an out-of-state gaming facility
  • Construction schedule to completion
  • Impacts on host and surrounding municipalities and how applicant will mitigate
  • Partnerships with local hotels, restaurants, retails facilities, and live entertainment venues
  • Measures taken to address problem gambling

The bill was introduced May 17 and referred to the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committee.

Addabbo wants to ‘credibly’ expedite licensing process

Addabbo told PlayNY that he and his colleagues in Albany “are getting frustrated” by how long officials have already taken. No doubt, he added, many of the interested applicants feel the same way.

“The intent was to realize the jobs and economic growth and revenue,” Addabbo told PlayNY. “Never in our wildest dreams did we ever thing that expediting it by one year that we were going to have wait three, four, five years.”

Addabbo added:

“I think we’ve learned a lesson here in that, when you have a gaming proposal like this, deadlines and timeframes are critically important. Because as of right now, currently, the gaming commission can hold onto those 400 answers, never start that 30-day clock for downstate licenses, and they can hold onto those things for years if they wanted to.”

For Addabbo, he said, “there’s no rational thought as to why, on a shelf collecting dust, would you have these three gaming licenses that equate to thousands of great union jobs in construction, thousands of jobs post-construction, billions in revenue, billions for the MTA, billions for education. Why would you do that?”

Addabbo pointed to 2013, when the state constitution was amended to allow up to seven commercial casinos in the state. By December 2015, three licenses were awarded, with the fourth coming a year later. Tioga Downs completed expansion to a full-scale casino by December 2016, with two opening within the next few months, and the last making its debut by early 2018.

“You did four licenses in 2014 in a fraction of the time,” Addabbo told PlayNY. “You did four, and you can’t do three in two years? There’s no rational reason why. Yes, some have land-use issues. Some have zoning issues. They’ve had two years to work it out.”

“I want my people to work now. I want people in New York to work now in these great union jobs. I don’t want to wait. I hope they [the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council] don’t want to wait. If we could credibly – again, credibly – expedite this timeframe of this process, I think we should take that opportunity.”

Plenty of potential support for downstate licensing bill

While the bill sets a March 31, 2025, deadline to award the three licenses – which could allow owners to offer online casinos in New York once lawmakers legalize iGaming – it does note that if state officials cannot select recipients by that time, the GFLB can issue one extension of no more than six months, which would fall at the end of September.

Even that extension would fall earlier than when the New York State Gaming Commission expects to issue the three downstate NY casino licenses. During a March meeting, the NYSGC hinted that it might not get to awarding the licenses until late 2025.

Recall over the past few weeks when several gaming companies weighed in on the lengthy downstate licensing process.

First came Patrick Dumont, president and chief operating officer for Las Vegas Sands, who was blunt on the matter: “We’re very disappointed by New York.”

Dumont said that “it’s confusing and disappointing because we’ve done a lot of work in New York and a lot of time into it. So I have no guidance because I don’t really know what to tell you with candor and insight. Just don’t know about New York.

“And it’s just wish – we wish they figured it out and let us know. We just don’t know. So we’ll remain hopeful that things turn around there.”

Soon after, Bill Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts International, told investors that “we’re somewhat disappointed” with the lengthy timeline. He added that all MGM can do is “remain patient,” just like all the other bidders.

Perhaps with this latest bill, though, they won’t have to wait as long.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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