A major hurdle has been thrown in the path of Las Vegas Sands as it seeks one of three licenses to operate a downstate casino in New York.
A state judge last week invalidated Sands’ 99-year lease agreement with Nassau County that would allow the gambling company to build a $4 billion casino at the site of Nassau Coliseum.
Supreme Court Judge Sarika Kapoor ruled that county officials voted to approve the lease without holding proper open meetings and skirting environmental laws. As a result, the lease is now void, leaving officials to begin holding new hearings with Nassau County legislators and voing again for potential approval.
Where Sands now stands with NY casino lease invalidated
During Sands’ recent earnings call, Rob Goldstein, chairman and CEO of Sands, said that his company “secured” Nassau Coliseum and are in “the process of gaining necessary selling requirements to move forward.” It represented “an extraordinary opportunity” for Sands to expand its reach, especially with the possibility of online casinos in NY once legalized.
“Our bid is compelling,” Goldstein said. And if it were awarded a downstate license, he added, Sands would “be in the ground as quickly as possible.”
It was also during the call that Goldstein emphasized how Sands has “strong local support from the local community” as it targeted the area to construct a 396,726-square-foot casino resort that would stand as the third-largest casino in the US.
However, from the start, Hofstra University has adamantly opposed the project, going as far as filing a lawsuit against the land-lease deal between Sands and Nassau County.
Hofstra, located next to the coliseum hub, claimed in its civil complaint that county officials violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when they approved the deal. The university also said that officials did not provide enough notice for public meetings and environmental review before voting.
Kapoor, a 2004 Hofstra Law School graduate, agreed.
“The respondents,” Kapoor wrote in a 32-page opinion, “violated both the Open Meetings Law and SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] approving the lease transfer.”
How everyone reacted to the judge’s ruling
Susan Poser, president of Hofstra, expressed her gratitude for “the court’s thoughtful ruling” as well as its “granting of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to Hofstra incurred in connection with several of the claims.
“The court recognized the public’s right to participate in decision-making about the current redevelopment plan for the Nassau Hub. We look forward to contributing to the planning process and advocating for the use of the Hub in ways that will best contribute to our thriving community, while protecting against environmental and other harms.”
Say No to the Casino Civic Association, also a vocal opponent of the Sands NY casino project, said that Kapoor’s ruling “validates the contention of the Say No to the Casino Civic Association, which for months has been sounding the alarm that not only did the County improperly rush the process through the legislature, denying residents the opportunity to weigh in, but it also neglected to review, quantify, disclose, and address the significant impacts that the mammoth casino project will have on County residents, businesses, and colleges.
“New York State officials should take note of this ruling by Judge Kapoor when making decisions on awarding the gambling licenses, as it highlights County Executive [Bruce] Blakeman’s contempt for his own constituents, and his blatant disregard for federal, state, and even county laws, as well as the right of every Nassau County resident to understand the wide-ranging, long-term impacts that this massive project will have on our way of life.”
According to the Say No to the Casino Civic Association, local residents have voiced concerns regarding the casino’s impact on increased traffic and air and water population. The group also said that a Sands casino would lead to a spike in crime and gambling addiction as well as lower property values.
Sands responds to latest obstacle
While Nassau County officials did not make a statement, Sands did, indicating it would not be thrown off track by the ruling.
“Las Vegas Sands is proceeding proudly and enthusiastically with our proposal for an integrated resort and entertainment center at the Nassau Hub,” the company said. “We are grateful for the wonderful response we have received from the Long Island community and we will be continuing our very comprehensive outreach as we present this transformational project.”