Gov. Hochul Signs Budget Bill, Putting Accelerated Downstate NY Casino Licensing Process In Motion

Written By Mike Mazzeo on April 11, 2022 - Last Updated on April 19, 2022
ny casino budget signed

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the $220 billion state budget for the 2023 fiscal year on Monday, officially clearing the way for the acceleration of three downstate NY casino licenses. 

Local policymakers worked into the wee hours to get through the remaining bills on the delayed budget. 

This effort marks back-to-back years of gaming expansion for the Empire State. Last year, legal online sports betting was added to the budget. Online sports betting has already brought in $168.1 million in tax revenue from Jan. 8 launch through April 3. And the state will add at least $1.5 billion to its coffers from initial downstate casino licensing fees. 

Sen. Joe Addabbo told PlayNY:

“It’s a process. It’s going to take awhile to form the siting board and get the request for applications out and put together the community advisory councils. There’s a lot of steps here. Our job with the budget is over, but new work begins.

“And we’re going to talk to the Hochul Administration and I’m going to talk with (executive director) Rob Williams at the gaming commission because I want them to really expedite this process and condense the timeframe. And I know they can do it with a little incentive because I saw it with online sports betting — so we can try to recognize the revenue, educational funds, jobs and addiction money sooner than later. That’s the idea.” 

As a matter of comparison, the NY sports betting process spanned from the budget passage in April to license selection in November. PlayNY detailed much of the licensing process as per the bill language Friday. 

Read More >>> Casinos Will Create Thousands Of Hotel, Gaming Jobs In Downstate New York

Which casinos are interested in New York?

The budget’s language includes protections to financially take care of the racetracks in the existing video lottery terminals: Resorts World NYC (Queens) and MGM Empire City (Yonkers). That is why Resorts and MGM are thought to have the upper hand in what is still a competitive process, given the existing investments, the speed to market and local support.

Bill Hornbuckle, the CEO/president of MGM Resorts, said:

“We are thrilled that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature have reached an agreement to allow the state to issue the available commercial casino licenses.

“We applaud their tireless efforts to help communities recover from the lows of this pandemic. MGM Resorts looks forward to responding to the anticipated request for applications and is excited by the opportunity to bring thousands of quality jobs and meaningful private investment to Westchester and the region.”

Resorts World said in a statement:

“We are ready, willing and able to immediately double our workforce by adding more than 1,000 new union jobs and help the true potential of resort-style gaming, entertainment and be hospitality right here in the heart of Queens.”

Resorts World NYC a ‘plug-and-play’ situation

Addabbo has Resorts World NYC in his district: 

“Those are jobs for my people who have been hurt by the pandemic to provide for themselves and their families. I need those jobs. I need those construction jobs and post-construction jobs. So if it was to be Resorts World, I’d want that as soon as possible.”

Resorts World NYC would be, Addabbo said, essentially a “plug-and-play” situation because it already has a hotel and would need to add machines and tables, and then training additional employees.

Meanwhile, Hornbuckle acknowledged the need to build a structured parking garage if MGM Empire City received a casino license. But with 97 acres of land in Westchester County, there is certainly room for expansion for the property. 

“To their credit, MGM is also well-respected in the market and has had success in the market, so who knows what they could do with all that land there, and there are thousands of jobs involved,” Addabbo said.  

A casino in Times Square?

Should the two VLTs emerge from the competitive process with full-scale licenses, that would leave a battle of several wealthy and powerful people lobbying for the third and final license. Hard Rock, Las Vegas Sands, Bally’s and Wynn have all expressed interest in joining the downstate NY casino market. 

The most intriguing possibility could be the Hard Rock-SL Green casino project at Times Square.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams, the former chair of the Senate’s racing, gaming and wagering committee, has already said he’d like to see two of the licenses put in the five boroughs. A Manhattan property would be a significant achievement given all the opposition it would likely face.

“I think (Eric’s) drooling over Manhattan,” one casino industry source told PlayNY. 

Bally’s, Sands interested in NY gaming, too

Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein has expressed a willingness to pay a significant amount in licensing fees for the right to build new construction in The Big Apple.

Mets’ owner Steve Cohen, who appears to have influence over Adams due to his previous $1.5 million contribution to Adams’ campaign bid, met with Sands about the possibility of a casino going next to Citi Field. 

Bally’s chairman Soo Kim, meanwhile, told the NY Times that his company doesn’t intend to be going into Manhattan:

“We’re thinking more of the outer boroughs, a place where we think that we can have the convenience for people from New York City, but also to be able to pull from the suburbs.”

Other potential locations include Coney Island (though accessibility would be difficult), Belmont, Midtown (Sak’s Fifth Avenue) and the East River (Water Club, Kips Bay). 

The process has only just begun. 

“With online sports betting last year and downstate casinos this year, these are progressive, credible, methodical and safe steps that the state probably should’ve taken years ago,” Addabbo said.

“But we’re not going to cry over the billions that we lost. We’re going to go forward and be happy about the billions we’re going to witness here.” 

Photo by Hans Pennink / AP
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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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