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King of New York

I, personally, will rule on the three New York downstate licensees.

You may have noticed from our cover feature this month that there are 11 proposals for what will be three casino licenses in and around New York City.

They have a panel of very serious people within the state government that will decide which three of the 11 bidders gets the privilege of ponying up a cool billion ($500 million license fee plus $500 million minimum investment) for the right to take New Yorkers’ money.

King of New YorkI dreamed last night that I was the King of New York (not really, but it’s part of the bit), and instead of that committee of serious bureaucrats, it will fall on me, personally, to pick the three New York downstate licensees.

Even though there won’t likely be a single actual application accepted until early next year—state government would need to speed up quite a bit to even achieve a glacial pace—I’m going to let you in on my decisions now. Maybe members of the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, the snappily named committee with the final word on licenses, will heed my suggestions.

Hey, they have to listen to the King of New York, right?

First off, I’m not giving a license to either of the racinos. There are a lot of people who think it’s a fait accompli (literally, “French words in italics”) that two of the three available downstate licenses are going to the two current racetrack slot casinos, Resorts World New York in Queens and MGM Empire City in Yonkers.

If the goal is to maximize revenue for the state, this makes no sense. Both already offer slot machines, and while they would spend a lot of money on nice amenities, adding low-hold table games to the slot offerings would pale in comparison to several thousand new slots, along with table games, in a brand-new, ground-up property.

Resorts World and Empire City will still pump revenue to the state from the slots they have, even if they don’t get the table-game licenses. We need new blood. (That’s the royal “we,” since I’m King of New York.)

A couple others that are attractive but that I would not pick: I wouldn’t pick Sands New York at the site of the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, not only because of the bad juju from the ghosts of New York Islanders (the hockey team played at this location, and the King of New York is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan), but because there’s such vehement local opposition, particularly from nearby Hofstra University and a couple of other schools. I don’t want to see a grand opening marred by a riotous mob of college professors.

A casino on the top three floors of Saks Fifth Avenue is an intriguing proposal—a Monte Carlo, James Bond-style casino complete with tuxedoed dealers and formally dressed players. Intriguing, yes, but the renderings only show table games. You’re not making money without slots, pal, even if the players are in Armani suits and Christian Dior gowns. (More likely, they’d be in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts. “The name’s Bond. Herbie Bond.”)

I’ve thought long and hard about the remaining seven proposals, and here are my three choices. The winners are Wynn New York City at Hudson Yards on the West Side, Caesars Palace Times Square, and Metropolitan Park in Queens.

The Wynn project is in the Hudson Yards neighborhood, at the former site of Western Rail Yards, on Manhattan’s West Side. I like it because it’s near the Jacob Javits Convention Center—so, lots of midweek business—and because it resurrects old railroad land. (I worked for a railroad for two different stretches of my weird career.) It also includes affordable housing, which, in Midtown Manhattan, means you can afford it if you make less than $1 million a year.

And it’s a Wynn project. You can’t go wrong there.

Caesars Palace Times Square places a casino project smack in the middle of the most storied New York neighborhood. The building Caesars would transform already houses a hit Broadway show, The Lion King, which they would keep. And Jay-Z’s involved. How could it go wrong?

Finally, Metropolitan Park, the project proposed by New York Mets owner Steven Cohen, would add fantastic park space to Queens, with green space, athletic fields, bike paths and other attractions.

But the real reason I like this one is that it’s located on current parking space at the Mets’ Citi Field ballpark. For the same reason I love Live! Philadelphia, it affords the opportunity to play craps and then walk to a ballgame.

Even if it’s the Mets.

The King has spoken.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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