Also In Mix For Citi Field Partnership, Hard Rock May Have A Place For NY Casino

Written By Mike Mazzeo on May 17, 2022 - Last Updated on February 2, 2023

Las Vegas Sands isn’t the only entity interested in a possible Citi Field casino.

Hard Rock is also in the mix for a potential partnership with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on a New York casino project next to the Queens ballpark, multiple casino industry sources told PlayNY.

The entity recently opened up the Hard Rock Hotel New York in Times Square, but the property isn’t big enough to accommodate a full-scale casino. Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen told the Associated Press in February:

“You have to have a footprint of real estate large enough to take advantage of the size of the market. We’re extremely proud of our hotel on 48th Street, but its footprint is just not large enough for gaming.”

Citi Field still stands as potential NY casino partner

In that AP report, Allen spoke about at least three possibilities in the NYC region, though he declined to delve into specifics. An oft-talked-about proposal includes a Hard Rock casino in Times Square. But any Manhattan casino proposal expects to face significant opposition from local politicians and community groups.

Cohen, with a net worth of $17.4 billion, is considered an intriguing player in the process due to his wealth, power and connections. Cohen also has a strong relationship with NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who would like to see two of the three downstate casino licenses awarded in the Big Apple.

Cohen’s relationship with Adams could face scrutiny, though. And the Queens Civic Congress has already expressed concern over issues about using parkland for the project. In the past, several powerbrokers have been unable to pass development projects in the borough. PlayNY broke down the pros and cons of a Citi Field casino in detail here.

Of course, Cohen could possess the capabilities to overcome all of that.

Read More: Challenges Aplenty: Where Could Third Downstate New York Casino License Go?

How NY casino expansion also affects New Jersey

Las Vegas Sands versus Hard Rock isn’t the only potential casino war that could be brewing.

New Jersey has dominated New York on the gaming front for several years. But this time, with the Empire State’s downstate casino license acceleration underway, the Garden State will be in reactionary mode.

Three casinos in the NY downstate region could lead to two more in NJ — one in the Meadowlands and one at Monmouth Park. However, for that to happen, New Jersey would require a ballot referendum. And it’s probably too late for that as far as this year is concerned, meaning it may not happen until 2023 at the earliest.

“This ballot question should have the locations on it. The last one didn’t. Las Vegas Sands, Wynn — all the companies said the Meadowlands is one of the best locations in the world to put a casino in,” lawyer and lobbyist Bill Pascrell III told PlayNY.

“It’s a shame that Jersey didn’t get its act together and get it done sooner, but now we’re playing catchup. … I think if it was put on the ballot this year, it would wonderful and good and we could win it.”

Financially, Atlantic City casinos would receive revenue from the Central-North Jersey facilities so as to mitigate lost customers.

New York entities, though, could counter with advertising encouraging NJ voters to vote no. Voters in both NY and NJ have traditionally stood opposed to gaming expansion. “It’s always easier to defeat something than it is to approve something, in this context,” one industry source told PlayNY.

Hard Rock partially owns the Meadowlands. Allen told the Associated Press that the possibility exists for Hard Rock to have facilities in both NYC and North Jersey.

But it’s unclear if NY, as part of the open competitive bidding process, would be amenable to such an arrangement. New York City is certainly the much more valuable casino real estate.

Still plenty of work left before NY casino expansion

The downstate NY casino licensing process remains very much in the early stages. The New York State Gaming Commission has until Oct. 6 to select a gaming facility location board.

Local policymakers would like that timetable to be expedited. Still, it’s an election year. Gov. Kathy Hochul has very much been pro gaming, and she is running for a full term. Granted, the potential does exist for a new governor to be in place depending on the results of the Nov. 8 election.

Within 90 days of selecting the majority of members of the six-member gaming facility location board, the NYSGC would then issue a request for applications.

Wynn and Bally’s also exist as other massive entities that have expressed interest in one of the three downstate casino licenses.

The fee for a downstate license will cost at least $500 million. Though that number could rise as part of the open competitive bidding process.

Existing video lottery terminals (VLTs) MGM Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World in Queens appear as frontrunners, mostly due to speed to market. Those existing facilities also won’t have to worry about zoning regulations or community opposition.

There is concern about cannibalization, depending on where the third casino is located. Even so, a new construction project could take up to five years to complete. That would give MGM and Resorts World — should they win the bidding — a significant head start on customer acquisition and retention.

The jockeying has only just begun. And it could include a face-off between Sands and Hard Rock for the right to partner with Steve Cohen.

Online gambling opportunities

Online casinos in New Jersey are required to partner with land-based casinos in the state in order to offer their services to customers there. If online casino laws are eventually passed in The Empire State, any NY commercial casino would subsequently be well placed to offer legal online blackjack or online roulette in New York for real money.

Photo by AP / Wayne Parry
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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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