Group Remains ‘Humbly Very Confident’ As It Targets Coney Island For New York Casino

Written By Matt Boecker on April 5, 2023
ny casinos coney island downstate casino request for applications

The groups backing The Coney believe the economic upside from their casino proposal is second to none.

Now, it’s time to get the Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB), Coney Island residents and business owners to see the vision.

In early March, Thor Equities released renderings of their downstate NY casino proposal. Other groups backing the project include The Chickasaw Nation, Legends and Saratoga Casino Holdings.

In a recent interview with PlayNY, representatives from The Coney expressed the importance of tapping into Coney Island’s culture when crafting their proposal.

“When you look at Coney Island it’s got this great foundation,” said Sam Gerrity, CEO of Saratoga Casino Hotel, “it’s already an entertainment district. It’s got the beautiful ocean in front of it.

“And you know, our vision for the property… is that we don’t want to just plop a Las Vegas-style casino down there, right. The area has so much character already and we just want to play off of that, and just add on top of that.”

What sets The Coney apart from the competition?

The bidding process for the three available downstate New York casino licenses has been extremely competitive. Currently, the GFLB is reviewing 10 applications from groups interested in securing a license.

Plus, Resorts World NYC and Empire City Casino are each expected to receive a license. If this happens, just one license would remain with eight candidates fighting to earn it.

But the representatives from The Coney remain “humbly very confident” in their odds of scoring a license. This confidence stems from the group’s economic plan to revitalize Coney Island, which Global Gaming Solutions COO Paul Pippin noted remains an important part of the application process.

“I don’t think that there’s any better story, when you look at economic development, than Coney Island,” Pippin told PlayNY. “I mean, we’re at 19% unemployment in Coney Island. Low wages, seasonal jobs. This really will make the biggest impact, in our mind, of any site that’s presented right now.”

Pippin also noted that if The Coney — which released renderings of its proposed facility last month — receives a casino license, the project would receive around $3 billion in private funding. It would create 2,500 construction jobs and over 4,000 permanent careers.

The Coney would offer something for everyone

A large casino floor filled with table games and a sportsbook are two things guests can expect from The Coney if they win the bid. The groups anticipate a wide variety of guests coming to game in Coney Island, so they want to be sure they cater to everyone.

“Our goal is to create an environment within the casino that speaks to everyone because we truly believe this to be a hybrid-type model,” Pippin said. “And when I say hybrid, you’re going to have local folks come, you’re going to have regional folks come from neighboring states. And to some extent, you’re going to have international as well.

“So I think you’ve got to make sure it’s able to speak to a broad variety of guests.”

Pippin and Gerrity refrained from providing the exact number of table games and slot machines to expect from The Coney because they’re still in the application process. But when asked how it would compare to Seneca Niagara Resorts and Casino, New York’s largest upstate casino with 2,800+ slot machines and 100+ table games, Pippin expects The Coney to surpass those totals.

Coney Island residents have expressed concerns

The Coney, along with other downstate casino applicants, has gotten some pushback from the community. The biggest concerns are an uptick in traffic and crime if a casino joins the neighborhood.

However, Pippin said their group has been engaged with residents and local business owners to understand their worries. They’ve also done their best to make sure locals know this would be a partnership, not a situation where The Coney takes customers from the surrounding businesses.

Gerrity mentioned that when Saratoga Casino Hotel opened 18 years ago, members of the community brought up similar concerns. But now, Saratoga locals have no problem with the casino.

“You’d be hard-pressed to walk the streets of Saratoga Springs and find someone who said ‘We have an issue with the casino hotel’, or ‘they’re making the neighborhood worse,’” Gerrity said. “That’s not the case and our strategy is, and has always been, to build on strong relationships with our customers, our team members and our communities.

“At the end of the day, it’s the relationships that we build and the trust. I think that’s something we have to earn and we’ve proven before that we can earn that.”

Pippin added that the group is actively working on traffic studies to learn how they can minimize that problem. He also noted that per the data they’ve found, public safety actually increases from the addition of a casino.

“We’re going to have more lighting,” Pippin said, “we’re going to have local law enforcement that we’re going to be partnering with within the city and state. We’re going to have our own security guard force that we hire.”

Addressing the hurdles in NY casinos application process

A major obstacle standing in the way of The Coney receiving a casino license is the large group of applicants. Especially if two licenses have seemingly been secured by Resorts World and Empire City.

But the group is focused on working with the community to understand their concerns. They also feel they have the strongest proposal among the 10 applicants. Now it’s time to get the citizens of Coney Island and the GFLB to understand that.

“It’s just about articulating a robust enough plan in the RFA,” Pippin said, “and not just the RFA but in the community, because this can’t just be filled with a lot of broken promises. We’ve got to have solid data, facts, and a plan of development that helps people feel comfortable that it’s something we can actually feasibly enact.

“I think that’s what we feel good about. But we also feel like that’s the stretch, that you have to be able to articulate that in a way that makes everyone else feel confident about it. Our team feels confident about it, now we have to be able to articulate that to everybody else. To the community and to the selection board.”

The Coney’s backers have history in NY gaming industry

The Coney has a leg up on the competition because the groups backing the project have histories of success in the New York gambling space. Pippin and Gerrity believe that will be helpful during the bidding process.

“[Saratoga was] the first racino in the state of New York and since day one, we’ve really been regarded as the gold standard by the gaming commission,” Gerrity said. “We’re used as the beta test site for statewide initiatives.

“Saratoga Casino Hotel continues to be the most successful VLT casino in upstate New York in terms of gaming revenue and aid to education. We’ve contributed over $1.2 billion to state education since we’ve been open.”

On the Chickasaw Nation side, Pippin said the group owns and operates a growing portfolio of over 100 businesses. Included in that: WinStar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma, regarded as the largest casino in the world with over 11,000 slot machines.

Global Gaming Solutions, the commercial arm of Chickasaw Nation, has placed over 50,000 electronic games in various casinos. They also operate more than 24,000 electronic games and 2,000+ hotel rooms.

“So we do bring a strong rich history of understanding every part of the business,” Pippin said. “Not just slots and tables. So I really think that’s going to benefit us as we partner with somebody like Saratoga and Thor in the New York community there.”

Photo by The Coney Casino & Resort
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Matt Boecker

Born in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Matt graduated from Northern Illinois University, where he covered NIU hockey for the Northern Star. Since then, Matt has specialized in NFL and NBA coverage for various websites and podcasts before shifting gears to casino and sports betting coverage.

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