There is little doubt that downstate casino gaming in New York will thrive, potentially even outshining Las Vegas once the New York City-area resorts open up.
While those grand debuts likely won’t happen for several years, and while the actual awarding of the three available licenses may not occur until 2025, communities around the downstate area have already started voicing their opinions about these incoming casinos.
And that’s significant. Especially considering that community support stands as a major factor in proposals earning licenses, which open the door to launch online casinos in New York should lawmakers pass a bill to authorize the industry.
Here, we take a look at some of the latest and most noteworthy community news surrounding downstate NY casino projects.
Las Vegas Sands NY still trying to gain traction
It has been a rocky road for Las Vegas Sands since it announced plans to build a casino resort near Nassau Coliseum.
Among the most headline-grabbing events, Sands saw a court invalidate its 99-year lease agreement with the Nassau County Planning Commission. A judge agreed with Hofstra University, which filed the grievance, that Sands and the NCPC violated the state’s Open Meetings Law as well as the State Environmental Quality Review Act. As a result, Sands officially doesn’t have a site for its planned $4 billion casino. Certainly, though, Sands will continue to lock it down through the proper channels.
Outside of that, for the most part, it appears as if most of the community opposes a Las Vegas Sands NY casino. Most recently, over 300 Nassau County residents flocked to the Uniondale Marriott to say as much.
George Krug, a member of the Say NO to the Casino Civic Association, called casinos “places that lift people up and shake them until all the money falls out.”
Krug was one of hundreds of speakers during the meeting. So, too, was Jeffrey Reynolds, part of the Family and Children’s Association.
“We always worry about problem gambling,” Reynolds said during the meeting, “and the use of alcohol and drugs in any casino.”
Mary Carter Flanagan, mayor of Garden City, sided with the opposition, citing “crime, poverty, addiction.” Others expressed concerns about traffic and the quality of air and water.
On the other side, though, Johnny Martincic of the local Steamfitters 638 said “the casino will be built” and “built with the union.” Another advocate shed light on the number of jobs created with a new casino. Not to be outdone, while she said that Sands continues to communicate with the community to receive its input on the best possible product, Tracey Edwards delivered a similar sentiment.
The Sands senior vice president said: “We’re gonna win.”
Mohegan Sun underground casino ‘not the mood’ wanted in Manhattan
In Manhattan, the Soloviev Group looks to construct a casino near the United Nations.
During a recent community meeting, project developers emphasized how the Mohegan Sun casino would be build underground, leaving the above-ground area available for green public space. According to Kevin O’Keefe, president of the Manhattan East Community Association, this highlights the dedication “to more open and green space in Midtown East.”
In addition, the Soloviev Group plans to build restaurants hotels and new apartments, including some devoted to affordable housing.
The community, though, appeared unswayed.
“We have young children,” one resident said during the meeting. “It’s just not the mood that we want in our neighborhood.”
Sandra McKee, chair of Community Board 6, supports the development of affordable housing. It represents the area’s “most pressing need.” But she added that the community as a whole has shown “opposition to any casino,” which drew a raucous applause.
For its part, Soloviev Group indicated how much support it has reaped, with CEO Michael Hershman sharing that thousands of residents have signed a petition in support of the project, including hundreds from small businesses as well as labor unions.
Coney Island casino gets state’s first community board backing
Unlike most other proposals, The Coney has enjoyed a smoother ride in its pitch for a downstate casino.
A collaborative effort from Thor Equities, the Chickasaw Nation, Legends and Saratoga Holdings, The Coney – as its name suggests – has targeted Coney Island for its $3 billion downstate casino.
And earlier this month, it cleared a significant hurdle as Community Board 11 voted unanimously to support the project. Following a meeting that saw a vast majority of attendees supporting the development, the board recorded a 20-0 vote to back The Coney.
Now, while a win in theory, the board doesn’t actually represent the area in which The Coney will go up but rather the areas to the north of Coney Island. In reality, The Coney would need approval from Community Board 13, which has actually opposed the project, citing traffic congestion, increased crime and higher rent. Last spring, CB13 voted 23-8 against The Coney.
The approval of Community Board 11 did come with a caveat, that The Coney must allow input from members of CB11 and CB13. In addition, CB11 will have the chance to review and address traffic studies, while Brooklyn residents would have the opportunity to participate in job fairs.
Hard Rock hosts info session on Queens casino project
While not an official community get-together to gauge support of local residents, Hard Rock International hosted job and info sessions at the New York Hall of Science in Corona as well as at The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights.
With over 250 small business owners, community-based groups and workforce development organizations in attendance, Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen presented Metropolitan Park as “a long-term investment into the people and businesses of Queens.
“Not only will our venue bring people together for memorable shared experiences, but we can create jobs with competitive salaries and benefits and life-long careers adding to the more than 60,000 workforce we employ around the world. We’re excited to bring our unique brand of world-class entertainment — along with jobs and opportunity — to Queens.”
In a statement, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who partnered with Hard Rock to create Metropolitan Park, noted that the project would create more than 15,000 jobs and economic opportunities for Queens businesses.
“Metropolitan Park is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn 50 acres of asphalt into a year-round sports and entertainment destination – creating thousands of permanent union jobs, and year-round employment in the process,” Cohen said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with these community organizations to help recruit, train and hire New Yorkers.”
Mo Change, a local who owns a coffee distribution company, came away impressed by the presentation, calling it “a great” and “very informative meeting.”
He added: “There are critics that look at this proposal and see just the casino, but it’s much more than that. The whole project would benefit all of Queens not in the short-term but over the long-term.”
While these sessions proved positive for Hard Rock, the company does find itself still potentially facing an uphill battle. For one, Sen. Jessica Ramos remains undecided about her support for the project, noting late last year that she is “in no rush” to come to a decision.
Secondly, Bruce Blakeman of Nassau County accused Hofstra of colluding with Hard Rock to derail Sands’ plans of a Long Island casino.