Despite Optimism, Downstate NY Casino Licensing May Not Come Until Mid-2025

Written By Grant Lucas on February 6, 2024
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Believe it or not, over a year has passed since New York regulators issued a request for applications (RFA) to begin the process of issuing three downstate casino licenses.

They are of course coveted. Many believe casino gaming around the New York City area could rival the Las Vegas industry. What’s more, should lawmakers legalize iGaming, those brick-and-mortars would likely become qualified to offer online casinos in New York.

Yet over a year has gone by. And we still await the second, hopefully final, round of answers to questions submitted by prospective operators. Some six months have elapsed since the Gaming Facility Location Board released the last round of responses. Theoretically, we could see the second set emerge any day now. But regulators have said time and again that they want to take their time and get things right./

And if comments from at least one casino executive are any indication, as well as the Executive Budget from Gov. Kathy Hochul, it will still be some time until we see those downstate casinos make their grand debuts in the Big Apple.

Las Vegas Sands hopeful for 2024 announcement

Speaking during his company’s latest earnings call, Rob Goldstein, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, alluded to a potential timeline for a Sands New York casino in Nassau County, should the company receive a license.

Goldstein noted that building the proposed casino resort near Nassau Coliseum – which has a growing list of detractors and already faces a steep climb after a judge invalidated its lease agreement – could cost Sands somewhere “in the $6 billion range.”

That price tag, Goldstein said, “enables us to develop a true five-star resort.”

“This is a massive opportunity. We are very enthused about the prospect. Our bid is compelling. If we receive the license, we’d be in the ground as quickly as possible.”

Of course, every executive would provide such an outlook. “As quickly as possible” can create such optimism. Goldstein, though, provided a little more context to exactly when “quickly” occurs.

“The governor … commented on seeing something happen this year,” Goldstein said. “I hope that’s true. … But we don’t have any great insight if that will happen.

“We sure hope the governor is correct. And either way, win or lose, we’ll get decision in calendar year 2024. That’s our hope.”

Hochul’s budget does not expect revenue from licensing

Like the belief that the official applications could come in by the end of 2023, Goldstein’s hopes may also be dashed.

Again, consider the length of time it has taken to reach this point. In January 2023, the state issued the RFA, setting a 30-day timeline for interested parties to submit their first questions about the licensing process. Six months later, regulators responded to those inquiries. To the dismay of those wishing the process could be sped up, concern lingers around this pace.

At this rate, could we be waiting on this second round of answers until April? Is it possible that the official application date isn’t set until May?

A brief look at Hochul’s Executive Budget may provide a hint. The governor presented her plan for fiscal year 2024, which covers the state through March 2025.

Nowhere in the package will you find revenue from downstate casino licensing fees, which could cost bidders up to $1 billion. What does that suggest?

Either Goldstein heard Hochul wrong or the governor herself remains optimistic, perhaps even setting up a surprise windfall should regulators speed things up. As it stands in the Executive Budget, however, actually awarding those three downstate casino licenses may not come until the summer 2025.

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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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