NYC Zoning Approval Clears Way For Downstate Casinos

Written By David Danzis on March 22, 2024
NYC zoning change approval clears path for downstate casinos

The New York City Planning Commission approved a zoning proposal Wednesday, clearing the way for several downstate casino proposals to move forward with their multi-billion-dollar bids.

The planning commission voted 10-2 in favor of a text amendment proposed by NYC Mayor Eric Adams to allow gaming facilities in certain commercial and manufacturing districts.

The city’s current zoning laws do not address casino gaming facilities (the racino in Queens is on state land), and the administration is concerned about future litigation.

NY casino process is moving along

Wednesday’s vote is a small step in the ongoing saga for the three downstate NY casino licenses up for grabs. The downstate area includes all five NYC boroughs, Long Island and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam.

State gaming regulators have yet to open the licensing application process. However, there are 11 known bidders for the class III gaming licenses. Each bid would generate thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in taxes and billions of dollars in economic impact.

A downstate NY casino license does not come cheap, though. Selected applicants must pay a one-time fee of $500 million. Then, the state requires a commitment of at least $500 million in capital investment.

There are nine casino projects proposed for the five boroughs. Adams has publicly expressed his desire for NYC casino projects to secure two of the available licenses.

Adams’ proposal, which now goes to City Council for review, eliminates any potential conflict with existing regulations.

‘Level playing field’ for downstate NYC casino bids

Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning and Planning Commission chairman, had this to say when the mayor’s amendment was introduced last year:

“As the state considers proposals for casinos downstate, it’s important that we create a level playing field for applicants within New York City so they can compete for this opportunity. This text amendment would avoid duplicating the state’s rigorous licensing process, which includes local representation on the CAC (Community Advisory Committee), while setting up a rational framework for consideration within our zoning.”

Approval from a six-member CAC is part of the licensing process. Committees are comprised of political appointees from within the borough or district. The CAC can recommend a project to the Gaming Facility Location Board for licensing consideration.

Local hurdles for possible casinos in NY

Several of the potential applicants are already facing pushback from communities.

Out on Long Island, Hofstra University took the Las Vegas Sands to court over a 99-year land use arrangement with Nassau County.

A Brooklyn community board voted against The Coney casino on Coney Island last year. The vote does not exclude The Coney from licensing consideration. Since that initial vote, the team at The Coney says a lot has happened and they are gaining more local support.

The Caesars Entertainment & SL Green project in Times Square initially received criticism from the theater industry. They worried about casinos poaching their customers. Hard Rock & Steve Cohen’s bid at Willets Point in Queens needs a park easement that a local state senator has so far refused to sponsor.

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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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