Pascrell III: SL Green Scrambling To Find Casino Partner For Times Square-Manhattan Project

Written By Mike Mazzeo on June 15, 2022

Does the Times Square-Manhattan casino possibility still have legs?

New Jersey-based gaming lobbyist Bill Pascrell III of Princeton Public Affairs Group believes it could.

Still, property management group SL Green needs another New York casino partner for that project.

At this point, Hard Rock has seemingly pivoted to Citi Field and a potential partnership with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. As PlayNY reported, Cohen wants a casino partner that is all-in on Queens — as opposed to putting in proposals at multiple locations.

“They’re working on it. They’re scrambling right now,” Pascrell told PlayNY of SL Green. “But I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. It just requires a lot of work, in addition to needing a partner.”

Who could step in for Times Square-Manhattan casino?

Bally’s chairman Soo Kim told the New York Times that his company doesn’t intend to go into Manhattan.

“We’re thinking more of the outer boroughs, a place where we think that we can have the convenience for people from New York City, but also to be able to pull from the suburbs.”

Las Vegas Sands had preliminary talks with Cohen about the Citi Field casino but was also exploring other options as of late May. Other major casino corporations that could be in the mix include Wynn and Rush Street.

Any Manhattan casino project will face significant local and political opposition.

On the plus side, it would be a significant attraction, capable of making money off tourists. And Times Square would make sense given its aesthetic. On the downside, a Manhattan casino would need to be vertically integrated. And that lack of size could mean less revenue. Plus, tourists would have plenty of other entertainment options in the surrounding area.

“I think Citi Field is still in play,” Pascrell said, noting that he didn’t see the Bronx as viable.

Incoming NY downstate casinos could impact New Jersey

Existing video lottery terminals MGM Empire City and Resorts World (Genting) remain the frontrunners for two of the three downstate NY casino licenses.

“I just think Genting is probably best-positioned because they’ve got oodles of cash, and that makes them very viable,” Pascrell said.

“And there’s a lot of lobbying power going on with the Yonkers’ site for MGM. … If they don’t get it that’s going to significantly impact that site. It probably wouldn’t be sustainable for a year or two after everything opens.”

The expansion of casinos in New York’s downstate region would directly impact New Jersey’s Atlantic City casinos.

“I mean, anything you put downstate — whether it’s Yonkers, Citi Field, the Bronx or Manhattan — is a major concern for New Jersey,” Pascrell said.

New Jersey has explored expanding casino industry

A ballot referendum to add two to three North Jersey casinos — with sites such as the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park and Liberty National — all but won’t happen this year. That makes 2023 the next opportunity for the Garden State. Atlantic City casinos would benefit from a revenue share as part of the deal. But Pascrell said they aren’t aligned on how they’d like to proceed.

“The governor of New Jersey (Phil Murphy) has to convince the Atlantic City casinos that there’s going to be a benefit to putting two or perhaps three casinos in North Jersey, and then share the revenue outtake from that,” Pascrell said.

“Because one of the things we explored six years ago (in the 2016 ballot referendum that failed) was the ultimate license holders would have to be an existing license holder in Atlantic City — not somebody new to the dance.

“You have to show Atlantic City some benefits of keeping people in-state, and that there will be a revenue share. Those discussions have started, but they haven’t resulted in much yet.”

The NY downstate casino process is still in the early stages, relatively speaking. The New York State Gaming Commission has until Oct. 6 to implement a gaming facility location board. After four of six members earn selection, the board has 90 days to issue a request for applications.

Photo by AP / Ted Shaffrey
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a contributing writer for PlayNY, reporting on legal sports betting in New York while covering the potential legalization of NY online casinos and poker. He previously wrote for ESPN, the New York Daily News and The Ringer, among others.

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