Parents Say ‘It’s Not Right’ For New York Casinos To Sponsor Youth Sports

Written By Hannah Vanbiber on August 31, 2023
kids playing soccer with do not sponsor sign

Casino developers are racing to win support for the first downstate New York casinos – and some parents say their children have become “pawns” in the game.

New York legislators approved a plan to give three licenses for casinos in or around New York City, prompting a bidding war among developers and casino operators. Some of those companies saw an opportunity to gain local support: sponsoring youth sports.

Some parents object. One, Rich Corrao, told the New York Times:

“Don’t use our kids as pawns in your effort to dump something in our community that a lot of people really don’t want. It’s not appreciated. It’s not right. They’re not selling bubble gum.”

NY casino developers in bidding war for licenses – and local support

The NYC area has never had a full-scale casino. But now, a 10-year moratorium on any downstate (read: NYC) casino licenses ends. The State Legislature approved up to three new casino licenses for the New York City area, with the application process well underway.

At least 11 contenders are expected to make a bid. And projected possible locations include:

  • Hudson Yards
  • Times Square
  • Coney Island
  • Nassau Coliseum
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Midtown East

To win their bid, developers must show that their project is being “embraced by the community.”

And that’s where the sponsorships – and frustrated parents – come in.

Youth sports take on sponsorship of prospective casinos

In Coney Island this summer, a youth basketball camp was sponsored by “The Coney,” one of the proposed NYC casinos. The kids at the camp wore jerseys with “The Coney” logo.

Thomas Sicignano, the founder of Brooklyn USA Basketball, said the casino’s sponsorship in Coney Island allowed them to purchase uniforms for every child for the first time in 12 years. They also were able to staff their program fully.

Out on Long Island, where Las Vegas Sands is pitching its own casino, a local youth soccer team went to a training session with soccer stars David Beckham and Carli Lloyd.

Parents discovered that the training sessions were being sponsored by Sands. The flyer for the event had made no mention of the sponsorship.

Some parents welcome NY casinos support, others don’t want it

Some parents have expressed gratitude for the opportunities these sponsorships bring their families, while others are outraged. Others argue they simply want more transparency.

Lakeisha Bowers is a member of the local community board in Coney Island and a parent of one of the children in the basketball camp. She said she was angry the organizers hadn’t notified parents ahead of time.

“They’re using our children to promote a casino,” Bowers told the New York Times.

“If all the kids’ parents are aware of that and they’re still OK with it, then it’s fine by me. But let’s not make it a secret.”

Parents expressed outrage in Facebook groups, and some pulled their children out of the programs.

Others say the casino’s involvement is “not an issue” for them.

Casino companies respond to criticism

Ron Reese, a spokesman for Las Vegas Sands, said that such sponsorships were par for the course. Sands routinely supports children’s education and activities in its communities.

“We’ll continue to invest in youth organizations because they’re important parts of the communities in which we operate,” Reese told the Times.

Robert Cornegy Jr., a former professional basketball player and former NYC councilman, is working as a consultant for the Coney Island casino project. He said the casino was responding to the community’s requests for more youth programming.

“Everybody said, ‘We’re not listening to anybody about anything unless you’re willing to leverage whatever resources that you have to benefit our children,’” Cornegy said. “And any community is going to say the same thing.”

He also said that sponsorships like this are routine in children’s leagues.

“I’ve had the names of everything from liquor stores to churches on the shirts I’ve played in.”

Photo by PlayNY
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Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is a contributing writer for PlayNY after starting her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From covering local sports, entertainment and business in East Tennessee, Hannah now covers legal gambling for New York as well as covering women's sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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