Manhattan Lawmakers Stave Off Accelerated Timeline On Downstate Casino Licensing

Posted By Derek Helling on June 4, 2021

For three potential developers of a Manhattan casino, lawmakers from the New York City borough are holding all the cards and are in no hurry to play them. However, their actions could only act as a short delay.

State law does allow for the eventual licensing for one of three downstate New York casinos in the area. For the time being, members of the NY Assembly have simply been successful at killing off an attempt to accelerate that timeline.

The latest on a potential Manhattan casino

During the recent budget debate that ultimately resulted in the legalization of New York online sports betting, the subject of an NYC casino came up. In fact, a NY Senate proposal would have given the NY State Gaming Commission clearance to issue three downstate casino licenses, one of which would have been in NYC, this year.

That would have represented an acceleration of two years. The 2013 enabling constitutional amendment put a moratorium on downstate casinos through 2023. Debate on the subject continued past the ratification of the state’s budget.

According to Carl Campanile and Josh Kosman of the New York Post, that debate is over for now. Legislators from Manhattan were successful in their opposition.

“I adamantly oppose any casino in Manhattan,” Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who represents the Upper West Side, told The Post. “I believe it would be seriously detrimental to the residential and commercial quality of Manhattan.”

The amendment doesn’t specify an NYC casino has to be in Manhattan. So far, that’s merely been the target borough for developers. It may still end up the eventual site. However, the notion of acceleration for the end of the moratorium is now a non-issue.

“There’s mere discussion at this point,” commented NY Sen. Joseph Addabbo. “There’s nothing really going on.”

That might only remain the status quo for the balance of this year, though. Even just a year’s head start could make a difference for interested parties.

Will the matter surface again in 2022?

Right now, the odds look decent. NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has advocated for acceleration. He and others in Albany have pitched downstate casinos as a way to provide revenues for the state. Also, leaders in NY cities where new casinos may exist support the idea.

Perhaps the greatest incentive for pushing up the moratorium’s expiration might be lobbying from potential licensees. Among those are Bally’s, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands. Additionally, MGM and Resorts World stand to benefit as well.

Those two companies currently operate video lottery terminal sites in Queens and Yonkers. They will probably become recipients of two of the three aforementioned licenses. Upon receipt of such licenses, they would convert existing facilities into full-fledged casinos.

If the moratorium ends next year instead of in 2023, they could potentially open those refurbished doors a year sooner. That could mean a difference of billions more revenue for not only the state but operators as well.

As it stands right now, though, all the action on that front is speculative. The earliest potential licensees could see some action is 2022.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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