Setting The Odds (Again) For Downstate New York Casino Projects Proposals

Written By David Danzis on January 5, 2024 - Last Updated on January 8, 2024
skyline of new york city during the supermoon for a story on resetting the odds of downstate new york casino proposals receiving a license

The prospect of full-fledged resort casinos in and around New York City is one of the biggest storylines the legal gambling industry has seen in years. A Gotham gambling parlor has almost unlimited potential and could easily be among the world’s most impactful casino properties.

How about a handful of greater NYC casinos?

There is a trio of available casino licenses for the designated downstate area – which includes all five city boroughs, Long Island and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam.

The licensing process is still in its early stages, but the stakes are high. Especially when receiving a license could open the door to offer online casinos in NY once lawmakers regulate that segment.

Potential riches await downstate NY casinos

Some projections believe three downstate NY casinos could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual taxes for state, county and local governments. All while potentially outshining the granddaddy of them all: Las Vegas.

Casino operators and their partners are in line to reap billions of dollars in revenue from gambling, entertainment, retail, hotel rooms and dining.

Which is why every media outlet from CNBC to hyperlocal news websites in NYC are paying attention to what state gaming regulators do in 2024. We here at PlayNY have been paying attention since Day 1 and will continue to do so.

In 2023, we had some fun with the likely applicants for the downstate casino licenses and “handicapped” their chances.

Well, it’s a new year. Things have changed. So here are our updated odds for 2024.

(Note that this is purely for entertainment purposes and is not based on any inside or privileged information.)

Empire City, Resorts World NYC remain favorites for downstate NY casino licensing

Our frontrunners from 2023 are leading the pack again in 2024.

Empire City Casino (MGM Resorts International) and Resorts World NYC (Genting Group) are still the clear favorites. The two existing racinos face almost no community opposition, and converting the two facilities into resort properties would be more expedient and efficient than any other proposal.

In fact, Empire City has already developed renderings for how the property would look once converted.

However, as we noted last year, these two operations are not on equal footing.

Genting already has one commercial casino upstate, Resorts World Catskills, that has not yet met expectations (although it is performing better in recent months). The company’s Las Vegas property is sputtering and its prospects for further casino expansion are slim.

MGM, meanwhile, is an established, reputable operator with proven success from Nevada to New Jersey. Tying a real NYC casino into a gaming network that already includes Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Washington DC and Gulf Coast locations is a scary thought for MGM competitors.

New York likes winners. MGM is almost a shoo-in at this point.

Hard Rock, Caesars, Las Vegas Sands could sneak into licensing

This next category of potential casino operators features three projects that, in our opinion, are the most appealing and make the most sense in the long run.

The first project has moved ahead of the others in this grouping because it presents the single-best business opportunity for a greater NYC casino. A proposed casino partnership between Hard Rock International and billionaire Steve Cohen in Willets Point would be an absolute game-changer.

Between 81 guaranteed New York Mets home games at Citi Field, the two-week-long US Open tennis tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the hundreds of international and domestic flights coming into LaGuardia Airport every day, a casino in Queens might rewrite the gambling record books.

Another no-brainer proposal is the casino project in Times Square by Caesars Entertainment. A full-fledged casino resortCaesars Palace Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan’s entertainment district would be a draw for gamblers and non-gamblers alike. The theaters, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail stores in the immediate area would see profit margins only imagined in their wildest dreams.

The final proposal in this grouping is a casino project on Long Island, where Las Vegas Sands wants to build a multi-billion dollar complex in Hempstead near the old Nassau Coliseum.

In a vacuum, this project would make the most sense from a practical perspective. It is far enough away from the city’s congestion to be accessible but not so far as to be inconvenient. The amount of space in the area allows for expansion and other businesses to come in and capitalize on the arrival of a casino hotel resort.

Ironically, local opposition is the bugaboo for the Sands/Nassau County casino proposal.

Odds getting slimmer for Wynn, other NY casino proposals

This next group features excellent proposals that, for one reason or another, just don’t feel as exciting or as logical as the others.

The most notable among this group is one that moved up significantly on our list. We dismissed this project last year because it just felt improbable. It still does, truthfully, but the more we talk to people in the industry, the more this project keeps coming up in conversation.

Joseph Sitt, founder of real estate investment firm Thor Equities Group, is partnering with Saratoga Casino Holdings and the Chickasaw Nation for a casino project on Coney Island. The beachfront community in Brooklyn probably should have had casinos before Atlantic City did, but it missed the boat.

We don’t think 2024 will be the year that changes, but stranger things have happened in NY politics.

Another NY casino worth considering is a partnership between Wynn Resorts and Related Companies for a mixed-use complex at Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side. This proposal is banking on a high-end clientele and its proximity to the Javits Center.

If Wynn wasn’t associated with this project, it would probably be a non-starter.

A little further north on the West Side is a proposal by Silverstein Properties in collaboration with Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment (Parx Casino) called Avenir. The project calls for two 46-story towers connected by a sky bridge, housing 1,000 luxury hotel rooms and a casino occupying eight floors, totaling 600,000 square feet of gaming space.

This one looks beautiful and sounds impressive, but it may be too ambitious for the location.

You never quite know, but odds don’t look great for Bally’s, others

Rounding out the likely downstate NY casino bids is a trio of projects that are serious long shots at this point.

Bally’s Corporation just opened a casino in Chicago and is eying the Big Apple. The company wants to build a casino at Ferry Point on 17 acres of the public Trump Golf Links (now known as Bally’s Golf Links). The Bronx is the unlikeliest place to build a casino, but a NY casino on a golf course is an outside-the-box idea worth considering.

Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson Bay Company hopes to build a high-end casino inside its New York flagship store. Like its retail stores, this project is not designed for regular people. The blatant appeal to uber-wealthy patrons alienates a large portion of needed customers, so this plan has almost zero chance of being selected.

Finally, the Soloviev Group and Mohegan Gaming are partnering for a casino project near the United Nations on the East Side. According to the bid, this plan includes a 1,200-room hotel, a museum dedicated to democracy and a largely underground casino to accommodate roughly four acres of public green space at street level.

While the project is interesting, there doesn’t seem to be much support for it.

Photo by Seth Wenig / AP Photo
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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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