Future Of Hard Rock Casino Near Citi Field Hinges On Decision From Sen. Ramos

Written By David Danzis on February 15, 2024
Sen. Jessica Ramos in front of Citi Field for a story on her being close to deciding on her support for a Hard Rock casino in Queens

A proposed downstate New York casino at Willets Point could get some serious local political backing at any moment, a move that could tip the scales in favor of the $8 billion project gaining the community’s acceptance.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-Queens, is reportedly close to deciding whether to support or oppose a casino proposal in her district.

Ramos has been less than enthusiastic about building a casino in the blue-collar, working-class neighborhood she represents. However, union support for constructing multibillion-dollar casinos in NY is high. And Ramos has been very pro-labor during her political career.

Cohen, Hard Rock call for casino complex Queens ‘deserves’

Wall Street investor and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is partnering with Hard Rock International for a casino entertainment complex called Metropolitan Park adjacent to Citi Field.

The proposal includes a casino, a hotel, a live entertainment venue, retail and dining spaces, parks and bike paths.

Cohen and his team estimate Metropolitan Park could create as many as 15,000 temporary and permanent jobs.

At the public relations kickoff event for Metropolitan Park, Cohen remarked:

“It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves. When I bought this team, fans and the community kept saying we needed to do better. Metropolitan Park delivers on the promise of a shared space that people will not only want to come to and enjoy, but can be truly proud of.”

Even before license consideration, Hard Rock casino needs senator support

However, a lot of things need to happen first.

Cohen and Hard Rock would need a class III gaming license in NY.

There are three such NY casino licenses available and 11 known bidders. State gaming regulators are working through the process of formally launching the application period, hopefully this year.

Part of the application process involves applicants securing local support via a politically selected board called a Community Advisory Committee. The folks serving on the boards will weigh several factors, not the least of which is whether the local politicians who appointed them to the CACs support or oppose the projects.

Ramos’ decision on Metropolitan Park could significantly impact the local CAC ruling either for or against the project.

But even more, Metropolitan Park needs parkland designation

But it’s not just the senator’s public endorsement that matters. Metropolitan Park also needs an easement from the state since the project needs land currently designated as a park. As the highest-ranking local official in Albany, Ramos must be the one who sponsors and advocates for legislation to grant the required state easement.

She publicly opposed doing so in 2023, saying: “My neighbors and I are not currently in a place where it would be appropriate to introduce parkland alienation legislation.”

Ramos has hosted three town hall meetings in her district. The final one last week featured Cohen/Hard Rock presenting their plans to the community with Ramos in attendance.

Following the Feb. 7 public meeting, the Queens Daily Eagle quoted Ramos as saying:

“I don’t want to hear that anybody didn’t have the opportunity to be heard. The point of these town halls is that I also want to be very transparent, and I want people to realize that whatever the decision will be was thought through.”

Competition abounds in race for three downstate licenses

Metropolitan Park is among the downstate NY casino projects most industry experts believe have realistic chances of being selected for a license.

Empire City Casino (MGM Resorts) in Yonkers and Resorts World NYC (Genting Group) at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens are considered the frontrunners to convert from racinos (electronic table games and lottery-based slot machines) to class III gambling facilities (live dealer table games and slot machines with random number generators).

The New York State Gaming Commission could announce the winners later this year following recommendations from the three-member Gaming Facility Location Board.

The winning applicants must pay a $500 million license fee and be able to demonstrate at least $500 million in capital development.

But any winning proposal could be part of an industry that many believe could rival Las Vegas. What’s more, should lawmakers legalize it, online casinos in New York would also be at those winners’ disposals.

Photo by PlayNY
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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