“Circus” Of NY Casino Politics Could Delay Downstate Licensing Until 2025

Written By Grant Lucas on November 3, 2023
The skyline of New York City, which would presumable feature three casinos in the area. But an analyst projects that the awarding of those licenses would be delayed to 2025.

About a year and a half ago, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed off on awarding three downstate licenses for commercial casinos in New York. The hope, even a belief for some, was to award those licenses (potentially) by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Now, thanks to “the circus” of casino politics as one analyst put it as well as an already-lengthy process of simply answering the questions of interested parties, New York may not hand out licenses until 2025.

Brendan Bussmann, founder of B Global Advisors, in a report for Truist Securities that “one has to wonder how long the second phase of this initial stage will take, let alone the subsequent stages that arguably are more challenging and daunting over several multi-billion projects.”

Slow-moving process among reasons for NY casino licensing delay

The downstate licensing process remains in its first stages still, some 10 months after the state first released the request for applications in January.

At the end of August, the New York State Gaming Commission and Gaming Facility Location Board released a 103-page report answering the first wave of questions from prospective NY casino bidders. Regulators are currently reviewing the second set of inquiries, which were submitted Oct. 6.

That delay has caused concern regarding the timeline for awarding three licenses, as Bussmann noted in his report.

In addition, New York is attempting to renew its gambling compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians with the current agreement set to expire in early December. Those negotiations could go “into extra innings,” Bussmann wrote, further occupying the attention of state higher-ups.

Ties to Sibella could hurt Resorts World NYC, Empire City Casino

If that weren’t enough, revelations regarding Scott Sibella, a former MGM Resorts and Genting Group executive who was let go this year.

Reports surfaced regarding Sibella’s possible ties to an illegal gambling ring in Nevada as well as a recent lawsuit alleging Sibella knowingly ignored criminal activity at Resorts World Las Vegas.

Initially, many believed two of the three downstate licenses were essentially reserved for Resorts World NYC and Empire City Casino. Now, though, that “favored-nation,” as Bussmann wrote, may no longer have legs to stand on – because of the Sibella debacle.

Bussmann touches on impact of online casinos in NY

Of note in his roundup, Bussmann mentioned what effect NY online casinos could have on the Empire State.

Once again, Sen. Joe Addabbo expects to propose legislation to legalize online casinos in New York, as well as online lottery and poker. Addabbo has boasted that online casinos would provide a much-needed boom for New York, which projects to reach $1 billion in tax revenue in short order.

According to Bussmann, however, NY online casinos would “at a minimum serve as a lifeline to the existing sports-betting operators should they be lucky enough to also offer this form of gaming.”

Bussmann expects a 51% tax rate to be implemented for online casinos in NY, reflecting the state’s need for money as soon as possible.

“While the circus will be in town for some time,” he wrote, “the only things that are consistent is that it is New York’s money, not the people or operators’ money, that actually make things move in the Empire State.”

Photo by Julia Nikhinson / AP Photo
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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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