$3 Billion Manhattan Casino Proposal Includes Several Futuristic Elements

Written By Mike Mazzeo on December 14, 2021
$3 billion Universal casino proposal

Last week, Japanese-based Universal Resorts International, with American partner Jason Ader, submitted a project proposal to the New York State Gaming Commission with hopes of building a futuristic $3 billion resort and casino in Manhattan.

The casino project — known as “Mirai” which means “the future” in Japanese — would feature an eSports arena, crypto-NFT trading space, and landing port for flying cars.

“(Universal) is really excited about potentially entering the New York market, and they really feel they can bring a futuristic integrated resort to the New York market with elements that nobody has really thought of before,” Ader, a former Las Vegas Sands board member, told PlayNY.

“The city needs tax revenue, jobs and new engines to drive tourism, travel and entertainment.”

Plenty of competition for downstate casinos in NY

The NYSGC issued a request for information regarding its three remaining downstate NY casino licenses in late October. The deadline for submission of questions was Nov. 10, and the RFI response submission date was Friday.

There are already two video lottery terminals downstate in BetMGM Empire City in Yonkers and ResortsWorld NYC in Queens. There is a push for those two VLTs to become full-fledged casinos. In that scenario, the state would award one more license.

The competition could include Mets owner Steve Cohen, who has had preliminary talks with Las Vegas Sands about putting a casino across from Citi Field in Queens.

Hard Rock has also expressed interest in putting a casino in or near NYC. Hard Rock had talks with Fanatics, but those talks were exploratory and did not advance, a source said. “(Fanatics’ CEO) Michael (Rubin) has been looking into a number of things,” the source said.

Wynn and Bally’s have also been reported to be in the mix.

One potential Long Island location includes Belmont Park, site of the historic racetrack and the Islanders’ brand-new UBS Arena. Staten Island’s St. George neighborhood has also emerged as a possibility, according to the New York Post.

Ader said Universal’s potential advantage could be that the corporation is committed to making New York its only location the US. So there would be no plans to send its customers to competing properties like Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

Universal faces difficult road getting a casino into Manhattan

Local politicians have been adamant in their opposition of a casino project in Manhattan. Even a significant lobbying effort could end up falling short.

As one industry source put it, “It’s not NYC they need to lobby, it’s NYS reps of NYC. They’re much more experienced and policy focused with an understanding of long-term implications than the left-leaning, progressive NYC Council.”

Still, Ader remains undeterred. “Universal as part of the next step is very interested in listening to the feedback of the city,” Ader said. “We would hope to hear back over the course of the next couple weeks and months, but it’s a fluid process.”

Ader said Universal, if selected, would be willing to work with the city on a timeline for project completion with no exact desired Manhattan location in mind at this juncture. It helps, he said, that the company is debt-free and has the cash flow to move quickly.

The proposal included potential economic impact for both the city and state.

“I think the objective of Universal is to make this a marquee, must-see attraction for people all over the world, and create another reason for people in the future to want to come to New York,” Ader said.

Photo by AP / John Minchillo
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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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