Two Months After First Expected, We Still Await Round 1 Answers For Downstate NY Casinos

Written By Grant Lucas on May 22, 2023
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There is still no timetable in sight for the first round of answers in the downstate New York casino licensing process.

In February, Robert Williams, executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), indicated that answers to the first round of questions in the NY casinos request for applications (RFA) process could be expected within three weeks.

Now, nearly three months after that statement, Williams offered a concession:

“I was incorrect.”

The Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB), tasked with answering those inquiries, apparently received over 600 questions from potential applicants. In an effort to “properly evaluate” each question and “ensure accuracy and consistency in response,” the process of answering those questions remains ongoing.

In fact, as Williams alluded to in Monday’s NYSGC meeting, there is no set timetable for those first round of questions.

Still waiting on Round 1 answers for downstate NY casinos

Early in 2023, the GFLB officially began downstate licensing process by releasing a 70-page RFA to interested parties.

The first step within the RFA required potential applicants to submit questions to the GFLB by Feb. 3. Then, the board would have 30 days to respond to those inquiries. Essentially, that created a target of March 6, give or take, for answers.

On March 2, the GFLB posted on its website that it received “several hundred questions,” noting that staff continues to review them and draft “proposed responses for Board consideration, approval, and publication.” A month went by, and PlayNY learned in early April that the GFLB would need another week to publish responses.

Still, we we wait.

“While the responses are taking longer than expected, it’s important to remember that the Q&As are a critical step in the RFA process, allowing for the clarification of requirements and to make necessary amendments to the RFA,” Williams said during Monday’s meeting. “Taking the time to do this right is crucial.

“And to be clear, there is no statutory or RFA-mandated deadline for the response to each round of questions. It was purposefully left open-ended to allow the staff and the Gaming Facility Location Board members to properly evaluate each question and answer to ensure accuracy and consistency in response.”

When will we see Round 1 questions for downstate NY casinos?

Williams made it clear that there is “no expectation for when the first round will be complete.”

The NYSGC executive director emphasized that “staff continues to diligently review, answer and refine the more-than 600 questions that were submitted as part of the first round and draft responses to each.”

He later added: “All of the questions and answers to the questions, given the scope of the process and the weight the answers carry, they all deserve a thorough and robust consideration.”

That said, once the GFLB does publish its responses, potential applicants will have 30 days to submit a second round of questions. Following another 30-day gap afforded for GFLB responses, according to the initial RFA, the actual application process will begin, as well as the member appointment to Community Advisory Committees, which will review applications, gauge local support and “ultimately issue a finding determining whether there is adequate support for the proposed project” in each location.

As already shown, this process expects to take some time to complete before the state issues licenses for three downstate NY casinos.

During a recent earnings call, William Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts International, noted that the company intends to submit an official application “this summer” with the hopes of receiving a response “by the first half of next year.”

Meanwhile, Brian O’Dwyer, chair of the NYSGC, made it clear during Monday’s meeting that the state would take its time.

“As you may recall, while the site selection committee makes the final determination of the three licenses, once that’s done, then this commission must make a determination as to whether those three entities should be licensed to operate a casino in New York,” O’Dwyer said.

“I just want to put everybody on notice that that is not going to be rubberstamped by this commission. A lot of people who may have backgrounds that may need to be looked at will be looked at. And we will be very, very careful to make sure that, once again, the casinos are operated with the greatest integrity.”

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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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