Gubernatorial Candidates Open To Manhattan Casino, But Nothing Set In Stone

Written By Mike Mazzeo on June 9, 2022

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was evasive when asked during Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate whether she’d support a Manhattan casino. 

Hochul didn’t dismiss it by any means, sounding open to the possibility. Hochul was in favor of accelerating the three downstate NY casino licenses. After all, she included them in her January executive budget. 

“I’m not going to put my finger on the scale, and say where I want this to go because I want to get the outside experts — the people who are charged with this — to make the decision and do the analysis at existing sites,” Hochul said. 

“There’s some in Queens, there’s some in Westchester, there’s some in Nassau, as well as Manhattan, so as governor it’s my responsibility to be open-minded to all of these options right now, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.” 

Why NY casino in Manhattan is difficult endeavor

Existing video lottery terminals (VLTs) Resorts World NYC in Queens and MGM Empire City in Yonkers are the widely perceived as frontrunners for two of the three downstate casino licenses as part of the open competitive bidding process. This comes as a result of a variety of factors. Most important, speed to market. That iteration would leave one final license. 

On paper, Manhattan is very attractive. But is it realistic? Any Manhattan casino project would face significant local political and community opposition, making it a daunting challenge. 

So far, the possibilities have included Hard Rock-SL Green Times Square, a luxury, high-end casino atop Saks Fifth Ave., and a Monte Carlo style casino on the East River. But Hard Rock is interested in the possibility of teaming up with New York Mets’ owner Steve Cohen and building a casino next to Citi Field. And the question about the East River location is whether there would be enough construction and Hotel Trades Council jobs. 

It is also probable that other Manhattan proposals will emerge once the request for applications (RFA) process begins. But that can’t happen until a majority of the six-member gaming facility location board is selected. The New York State Gaming Commission has until Oct. 6 to select the board. The board would then issue an RFA within 90 days of the majority of members (four) being appointed. 

Hochul’s opponents chime in on Manhattan casino

Hochul is running for a full term after replacing ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo on an interim basis. Her opponents in the Democratic primary (June 28) are Tom Suozzi and Jumaane Williams. 

Suozzi took the opportunity to criticize Hochul and her controversial use of Seneca Nation casino funding for the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium. 

“It’s appropriate that you’re asking a casino question, because in the previous question the governor talked about how she would fund the Buffalo Bills’ stadium,” Suozzi said. “And when she first announced the funding over the Buffalo Bills’ stadium, she said that $450 million would come from the Seneca Nation. 

“The Seneca Nation has a casino that was having a dispute with the state for years. And she strong-armed the Seneca Nation to pay $450 million right before the Buffalo Bills’ deal was announced. Surprise, surprise. Who is the main competitor with the Seneca casinos? Delaware North. The same company who has the concessions for the Buffalo Bills. The same company that her husband (William J. Hochul Jr.) is the general counsel for.” 

Suozzi then transitioned to a downstate casino in the Manhattan area.

“As far as a Manhattan casino, I’m not opposed to it. But I’d rather have some public hearings and find out what the people have to say locally, as well as the state legislature to have public hearings on the location.” 

Said Williams: “I do want to look at the moment where we’d put any casinos. I am concerned about trying to get folks who are already having problems with paying their bills to go to casinos. So I’m not opposed to it. I do need to look more at it. And I’m not sure that Manhattan would be a place to put it.” 

Photo by AP / Bebeto Matthews
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a contributing writer for PlayNY, reporting on legal sports betting in New York while covering the potential legalization of NY online casinos and poker. He previously wrote for ESPN, the New York Daily News and The Ringer, among others.

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