Challenges Aplenty: Where Could Third Downstate New York Casino License Go?

Written By Mike Mazzeo on May 27, 2022

Will all three downstate New York casino licenses be awarded? 

That’s a question many in the industry are wondering as the jockeying continues in its early stages. 

Frontrunners Resorts World NYC (Queens) and MGM Empire City (Yonkers) are well-positioned to transition from video lottery terminals (VLTs) into full-scale casinos. They won’t have to endure an arduous zoning process, as well as significant local opposition. Plus, most important, they have speed to market working in their favor. 

Licenses to Resorts World and MGM — assuming they ultimately happen as part of the open competitive bidding process — would bring at least $1 billion to the state in initial fees. But what about the potential of at least another $500 million in additional initial fees from the third license? 

Well, there are plenty of intriguing options but just as many potential roadblocks. Which brings up at least the possibility that the final downstate NY casino license ends up being awarded at a later time, as the political climate evolves.

PlayNY breaks it down by location: 

A New York casino in the Bronx? 

Local politicians have recently endorsed the possibility of a casino going into the South Bronx — possibly on the Hunts Point waterfront. It could bring thousands of jobs to the community, though concern remains regarding lower-income residents losing their money gambling at the properties. 

There’s also a question of how casino partners and developers feel about building there, and whether they will get the right return on their investment. A Bronx casino could also face opposition from MGM given its location in Yonkers and potential cannibalization. 

Brooklyn in the mix for a NY casino?

Ride the Cyclone. Get a hot dog at Nathan’s. Gamble at the brand-new Coney Island casino. So has long been the hope of Coney Island developer Joe Sitt, who owns the majority of real estate in the area. And that hasn’t changed. 

Yet there are questions about how big the site would be (likely more vertical due to space issues), transportation and lack of accessibility. The Navy Yard has also been mentioned as a possible Brooklyn site. 

Potentially most attractive: Manhattan 

It may be the sexiest location, but Manhattan remains a daunting challenge for any potential operator given local community and political opposition. 

The most notable possibility has been the Hard Rock-SL Green Times Square casino idea. But Hard Rock is also in the mix as a potential partner for Mets’ owner Steve Cohen and Citi Field.

“I think (local community and political opposition) has scared a lot of people away from Manhattan,” one industry source said.

Arguably the coolest idea for the borough came in the form of a Monte Carlo-style casino on the East Water riverfront. But while that would be easier to site, it would lack construction and hotel jobs. 

New York Mets owner jockeying for Queens casino 

Cohen was in the news this week after investing heavily — via his hedge fund, Point72 — in VICI, which owns most of the real estate on the Las Vegas Strip. He’s talked to multiple casino partners about the Citi Field possibility — most notably Hard Rock and Las Vegas Sands. 

Three potential obstacles for Cohen could include: 

  1. Cohen — at least for the time being — wants an exclusive partner that isn’t going to send in three different casino proposals just in case Citi Field doesn’t work. And Sands, for instance, has also been exploring other options.   
  2. How would the ownership structure work? This may not be that complicated to figure out among the parties. 
  3. The parkland issue, which PlayNY detailed in full here. That is definitely complicated.

As with MGM and the Bronx, Resorts World presumably would push back against any competing Queens property. 

Staten Island under radar for NY casino … for a reason

There hasn’t been much, if any, buzz surrounding potential possibilities in Staten Island.

It doesn’t have much of a population, and there are only a couple of ways to get into the area — including by ferry. 

Don’t forget about Long Island 

Nassau County couldn’t even get 1,000 VLTs sited, so they had to go into Resorts World. There has been talk of sites like Belmont Park and Nassau Coliseum. But it’s very possible that elected officials and communities would be against it. 

Jake’s 58 is a VLT in Suffolk County, but would it want to add a casino partner or is it content to stay as is? There’s also a question of how the Shinnecock Tribe would feel about any LI project. 

As of now, there has also been no buzz in Rockland County. Local reports had stated new VLT Resorts World Hudson Valley would open in the summer of 2022.  

Plenty of areas. Plenty of interested parties (Sands, Hard Rock, Bally’s, Wynn, MGM, Genting, Rush Street, etc.).

Plenty of issues. All three downstate NY casino licenses TBD — especially the third one. 

Photo by Shutterstock / PlayNY
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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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