Back in January, Sen. Joe Addabbo issued a statement following the official request for applications (RFA) issued by New York for downstate casinos.
While emphasizing his faith in the process – and in those charged with carrying it out – Addabbo also made it clear: The quicker, the better.
“The quicker the three licenses are approved, the quicker we can begin to realize the major benefits to the state, such as thousands of construction and post-construction jobs, billions in revenue from the licenses, an increase in problem gambling monies and programs, as well as billions more in educational funding when the winning casinos go live.”
Now, seven months later, we still await the completion of the third step of Stage 1: Answers to the first round of downstate NY casino questions submitted by interested applicants. According to Brian O’Dwyer, chair of the New York State Gaming Commission, we could finally see those answers.
Answers to downstate NY casino questions coming soon?
Toward the end of the most recent NYSGC meeting, O’Dwyer ran through a bullet point list of announcements. Among them: A non-update update on the status of downstate casino licensing.
“We’re looking forward very much to advancing the whole new casino licensing program,” O’Dwyer said. “I know that we’re very much in the final stages, and hopefully we’ll have, certainly before our next meeting, that the first stage in response to the questions will be out. I’m really confident that, from our staff, that will be done.”
The NYSGC meets monthly, meaning the commission will “hopefully” release answers to the first round of questions sometime in September.
For context, the official RFA went out Jan. 3. Interested parties were required to submit a first round of questions by Feb. 3. Then, the Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB) would return with answers.
In February, NYSGC Executive Director Robert Williams indicated that we could expect those responses within a few weeks. Three months later, those answers still absent, Williams offered a correction: “I was incorrect.”
NYSGC taking its time to get things right
To be fair, as the NYSGC made clear, the GFLB received over 600 questions from applicants. As a result, the state is taking its time to “properly evaluate” each question and “ensure accuracy and consistency in response.”
“While the responses are taking longer than expected, it’s important to remember that the Q&As are a critical step in the RFA process, allowing for the clarification of requirements and to make necessary amendments to the RFA,” Williams said during the NYSGC’s May meeting. “Taking the time to do this right is crucial.”
It’s the third step of Stage 1. If the state is sticking to the original game plan, there are still six steps left in this stage, including a second set of questions from applicants. Then another six steps in Stage 2 before the board selects which applicants will receive downstate casino licensing.
How much longer will NY casino licensing take?
Optimism abounded in early 2023 that the state could complete or get near the end of the downstate licensing process by the end of the year. Unless something changes to the timeline, that isn’t happening anymore.
According to the original schedule released in January, once these answers come out, applicants will have 30 days to submit a second round of questions. Then the state will come back with another set of answers.
In the spring, William Horbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts International, said that his company expected to submit an official application “this summer.” He hopes to have a response “by the first half of next year.”
That all depends. Can the state respond to questions quicker than an actual casino is built?