The battle for one of three licenses in downstate New York wouldn’t be that without more headlines surrounding Las Vegas Sands and its proposal for developing a property at Nassau Coliseum.
The latest skirmish surrounds Nassau County, which approved a 99-year lease for Sands, and Hofstra University, one of the main antagonists in the Vegas company’s quest for opening a casino.
Susan Poser, president of Hofstra, received a subpoena on behalf of Bruce Blakeman, county executive for Nassau County. As reported by the Long Island Herald, Blakeman accused the president of colluding with a separate casino company to block Sands from setting up shop in the area.
If true, this could certainly throw a wrench in the case made by Hofstra in its opposition against a Sands New York casino.
Blakeman claims Hofstra colluded with Hard Rock
In a recent news conference, Blakeman shared an email with reporters sent by Michael McKeon, whom Blakeman labeled as a lobbyist for Hard Rock. The email, Blakeman said, was sent to Sean Caffery, a senior vice president for Hard Rock, and Michael Sullivan, an asset management company employee reportedly connected with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen.
Hard Rock has partnered with Cohen to build Metropolitan Park, an expansive casino resort in Queens.
According to Blakeman, McKeon sent along a link to a news story in the email, noting that it “speaks to Sands’ efforts to control the site.” McKeon added that he would be “checking with Hofstra to see if they will oppose this move.”
Blakeman concluded that this email serves as evidence that Hofstra worked with Hard Rock to derail Sands’ plans. If successful, and if Sands bails on its proposal, it would create an avenue for Hard Rock if it decided against developing the $8 billion project connected with Cohen.
“I believe this is evidence of improper behavior, and I am very troubled by this,” Blakeman told reporters last week.
“If they are against all of the things they claim to be against — and all of the concerns they had — they certainly weren’t concerned about students in Queens.”
Hofstra long opposed to Sands casino
Last spring, the county reached a 99-year lease agreement with Sands. At the time, Blakeman noted that Sands would pay $54 million for the land regardless of whether Sands receives one of the three downstate licenses, which could open the door to join the NY online casino market should lawmakers legalize the industry.
Hofstra quickly stepped in, however. The university filed a lawsuit, claiming the Nassau County Planning Commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Law before agreeing to the lease deal. Specifically, Hofstra pointed out a March 2 meeting that the NCPC did not provide advance notice to the public about, all to “benefit the private interests of Las Vegas Sands.
Hofstra has adamantly and consistently opposed a Sands NY casino, penning an open letter in early 2023 that called the proposal “entirely inappropriate” for the Nassau community.
A casino here, the letter details, would increase traffic congestion, crime and economic harm to local businesses in the area, which “is surrounded by educational institutions from preschool through graduate school, and a diversity of suburban communities that should not be exposed” to these negative impacts.
By December, a New York State Supreme Court judge rule that the county indeed violated the Open Meets Law as well as the State Environmental Quality Review Act. As a result, the court invalidated the lease agreement.
How Hard Rock responded to accusation
In a statement to the Long Island Herald, a Hard Rock spokesperson emphasized that “Hard Rock has not had any communication whatsoever with Hofstra University or its president related to Nassau.”
In fact, it would appear as if Hard Rock is committed to Queens and has no Plan B. At least, according to the spokesperson.
“We are committed to integrity, honesty and transparency in the (request for application) process for a downstate license in New York, and will not waver from that position.
“We made this clear to all of our vendors and partners, and will not tolerate any behavior that would counter that position.”