NY Lobbying Hit $130M In 2023, Cohen Spent Most Of All Casino Bidders

Written By Grant Lucas on March 7, 2024
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who along with Hard Rock was among the biggest spenders on lobbying in 2023 among downstate New York casino license seekers

The race for three downstate casino licenses in New York will no doubt be fast and furious. Especially considering how much revenue is projected to be had with retail gaming facilities in and around New York City.

As some experts believe the Big Apple could rival Las Vegas, and that those licenses could open the doors to offer online casinos in NY once lawmakers legalize them, it should come as no surprise just how much money these companies are spending in lobbying efforts around New York.

According to a recent report from the Office of the City Clerk, compensation for lobbyists in the Empire State spiked 8% in the 2023 calendar year, totaling $130.96 million in an effort to curry favor with state officials as they seek a downstate license.

Steve Cohen alone did some heavy spending during that time, as entities affiliated with the New York Mets owner and the proposed Hard Rock casino near Citi Field amounted to over $2 million in compensation.

Hard Rock casino proposal near City Field spent heavily in 2023

All told, according to the Lobbying Bureau Annual Report, 638 lobbyists filed statements of registration on behalf of 2,282 clients across various ventures. The $130.96 million in total compensation is up from the $121.15 million in 2022 and $104.21 million the previous year.

New Green Willets, LLC and Queens Future, LLC — both Cohen-related companies — employed the most lobbying firms with seven apiece. Another gambling company, Bally’s Corporation, was close behind with six.

In terms of compensation, Cohen’s New Green Willets spend the second-most overall with $946,809, while Queens Future reported $450,000. Including Hard Rock, which partnered with Cohen to potentially develop Metropolitan Park and reported $660,000, total compensation related to the proposal came out to over $2 million.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards told the New York Post that he’s had “no shortage of meetings” of late. No doubt as they relate to Cohen’s Citi Field casino as well as a proposed soccer stadium for the York City Football Club.

Other casino companies in the lobbying report

Elsewhere, the firm with most reported compensation was Kasirer LLC, which represents MGM Resorts and its Empire City Casino property among other clients. Kasirer clocked in at a state-high $16.8 million in compensation. By itself, MGM spent $300,000, as did Genting Group, which owns the other racino thought to be a frontrunner for a license, Resorts World NYC.

Wynn Resorts, which looks to set up a $12 billion development in Hudson Yards, reportedly totaled $314,000 in lobbying, according to data from the city clerk.

Bally’s spent some $285,000 in lobbying to transform the Ferry Point golf course into a fully fledged casino.

Meanwhile, arguably the most-favored proposal, Caesars Palace Times Square by Caesars, spent just $185,000 in lobbying fees.

Comparing city clerk data to report from fall 2023

Last fall, the NY State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government released a report detailing lobbying spending over the previous year. According to that data, gambling entities spent over $15.8 million while community organizations and business advocacy groups added another $1.5 million.

Genting topped the list of contributors with over $5.5 million spent on lobbyists, followed by Hard Rock ($1.5 million), Las Vegas Sands ($793,000) and Bally’s ($440,000).

According to that report, lobbying-related topics ranged from “casino expansion in downstate region” to “approval of gaming licenses in budget.”

Photo by Charlie Riedel / AP Photo
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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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