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New York, New York

There are 11 potential suitors for three available downstate casino licenses in New York, and all are in metropolitan New York City

New York, New York

The competition for three downstate casino licenses in New York has so far drawn 11 proposals for casinos in and around New York City. That includes proposals spread across four of the city’s five boroughs and one in the suburb of Yonkers on the Hudson River.

The proposals include the industry’s heaviest hitters, from Caesars Entertainment to MGM Resorts to Wynn Resorts to Bally’s Corporation and others. Not everyone expects all three downstate licenses to be awarded to projects involving ground-up casino resorts. It has been widely reported in the New York and gaming press that two of the licenses are likely to be awarded to the metropolitan area’s two racinos, Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City in Queens, whimetch have already each invested more than $1 billion in their properties. That would leave only a sole license to be pursued by the nine suitors.

The reasoning behind this scenario is that those two slots-only casinos would be up and running with table games much more quickly than ground-up projects, allowing returns to the state much sooner, among other financial reasons for local municipalities.

However, many industry insiders point out that the logic of long-term revenues to the state would favor ground-up casino resorts. More revenue would be had from thousands of new slot machines at three new properties than comparatively meager returns from low-hold table games, and realization of the minimum investment requirement of $500 million plus the $500 million license fee would bring in $1 billion just as quickly for ground-up proposals as for the current racinos.

In any event, there has not been a single official application for licensing from any of the 11 contenders. The New York Gaming Commission indicated in late March that it likely won’t start accepting applications until the New York City Council approves a land-use change in zoning laws to permit casinos in all the boroughs—which happened in mid-April—or before the project plans are evaluated by state-appointed advisory committees with respect to potential environmental impact and local support for the projects.

The latest estimates indicate that the state-appointed Gaming Facility Location Board, which has the final say on casino approval, will not begin formally accepting applications until late this year or early in 2025, with actual license awards not expected until late 2025.

Meanwhile, the bidders are busy chasing local zoning approvals and community support for their projects, with the goal of the projects meeting all such requirements before formal applications are submitted.

At its March 25 meeting, the Gaming Commission addressed two rounds of questions it has accepted from potential suitors for the three licenses—and some applicants had hundreds of questions. “The board is cognizant of the many factors relating to the zoning requirement, including New York City’s proposed text amendment relating to gaming facilities and of the many zoning-related questions posed by applicants during the first two rounds of questions,” said Commission Executive Director Robert Williams. “The updated timeline, expected to be finalized soon, will consider these and other factors.”

Williams discussed the process, and when it would likely move forward. He said the lengthy environmental reviews of the potential bids and applications are unlikely to be completed before Q1 2025, noting that moving ahead with the licensing process earlier would pose an “administrative nightmare.”

Financial considerations are another potential roadblock. Under the law, applicants must demonstrate they can fully fund their projects before they can proceed. One only need look at the casino process in Pennsylvania, where several applicants dropped out because of financing issues, to see how that can delay the overall process.

“The encumbering of money well in advance of a licensing determination could increase the costs of access to capital markets, which could reduce the proposal’s size and scope,” Williams said at the March 25 meeting.

The commission has advised bidders to use this year to resolve any environmental and financing issues in preparation for formal applications. The other issue that should be resolved is community support. The board requires a six-member Community Advisory Committee, appointed by local, state and New York City officials, to sign off on any project before construction can begin.

The number of potential bidders has remained steady at 11 for many months. Here are the potential casino projects being considered for New York City as of this writing:

Avenir

Developer: Silverstein Properties
Casino Operator: Greenwood Gaming
Borough: Manhattan

Avenir

Prominent New York real estate developer Larry Silverstein, chairman of Silverstein Properties, is partnering with Greenwood Gaming, owner of the market-topping Parx Casino in Pennsylvania, to propose a massive resort on Manhattan’s West Side at 41st Street and 11th Avenue.

Dubbed the Avenir (French for “future”), the 1.8 million-square-foot parcel, four blocks west of Times Square, would be anchored by a 46-story, two-tower hotel and residential complex, including 1,000 guest rooms and more than 100 “permanently affordable” housing units reserved for New Yorkers. The project would include a 600,000-square-foot podium with a casino and 12 full-service restaurants, and an elevated 1,000-seat performance hall housed in a 630-foot-high sky bridge connecting the two towers.

The Avenir would employ 4,000 local, union construction workers, and provide 5,500 permanent union jobs upon completion.

Bally’s Links at Ferry Point

Developer and Casino Operator: Bally’s Corporation
Borough: The Bronx

Ballys Ferry PointBally’s Corporation took over the 192-acre site of the former Trump Golf Links in the Bronx and rechristened it as Bally’s Links in a ribbon-cutting ceremony staged by New York Mayor Eric Adams in January. Bally’s has a 20-year lease with the New York City Parks Department on the parcel. Bally’s plan would assign 17 acres of the site to create a new Bally’s casino, with the remainder designated as green space or possible housing.

The $2.5 billion casino resort would join the 17-acre, award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course on the waterfront parcel where the East River meets Long Island Sound. Bally’s has yet to release specific details about the casino complex, other than to say the project would create 15,000 construction jobs and more than 3,500 permanent, high-paying union jobs with salaries starting at $70,000.

Bally’s has already begun courting the local community, last fall launching a free 10-stop shuttle bus for New Yorkers to prime locations in the Bronx.

Caesars Palace Times Square

Developers: Caesars Entertainment, SL Green, Roc Nation
Casino Operator: Caesars Entertainment
Borough: Manhattan

Caesars Palace Times Square

Real estate company SL Green has partnered with rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Caesars Entertainment to propose a casino resort in the center of Times Square, including 250,000 square feet of gaming space, as well as a 950-room hotel, an entertainment venue and restaurant space. Caesars Palace Times Square would be located in the 54-story 1515 Broadway building. The hit Broadway show The Lion King, already based in the building, would be incorporated into the project.

SL Green, Manhattan’s largest office landlord, and Caesars have committed that part of the gaming revenue would go towards added security, sanitation and traffic investments in the area.

Community support stumbled out of the gate, but has grown to include some of Broadway’s most prominent landlords. The Broadway League, which represents the

theaters in the neighborhood, opposed the project early, as part of the No Times Square Casino coalition that includes resident groups such as the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association. Those opposed cite congestion and cannibalization of the Broadway theater business.

However, late last year, prominent landlords including One Times Square, where the famous New Year’s Eve ball drop happens, came out in support of the project. Other supporters include SoHo Properties, the Moinian Group, Wharton Properties, RFR Holding, Ian Schrager Company and Stillman Development.

The Coney

Developers: Thor Equities, Legends Entertainment, the Chickasaw Nation, Saratoga Casino Holdings
Casino Operator: Saratoga Casino Holdings
Borough: Brooklyn

The Coney

A consortium of Thor Equities, Legends Entertainment, the Chickasaw Nation Indian tribe and Saratoga Casino Holdings is promoting a casino, hotel and entertainment center steps from the iconic Brooklyn boardwalk at Coney Island. It is being promoted as a way to bring full-time, year-round employment to a market that currently shuts down in the winter.

The casino property would be located between the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel Coney Island attractions. A sleek, glass-enclosed hotel with a multi-colored rooftop would be built right behind the casino. The plan also includes a convention hall.

Community support for the project has been split. Last year, Community Board 13, a citizen’s group, overwhelmingly passed a resolution rejecting the plan, its chairwoman saying she didn’t want to see Coney Island turned into another Atlantic City, where glittering casinos still surround areas displaying much urban blight.

However, another community group gathered 3,300 signatures from residents and merchants in support of the project. This group cites the 4,000 permanent, year-round jobs paying up to $30 an hour that the project would generate, in addition to 2,500 construction jobs.

Freedom Plaza

Developer: Soloviev Group
Casino Operator: Mohegan Gaming
Borough: Manhattan

Freedom Plaza

Mohegan Gaming is partnering with the Soloviev Group for a casino and mixed-use project on a 6.7-acre site south of the United Nations complex on Manhattan’s East Side. Soloviev purchased the now-vacant parcel from Consolidated Edison in 2000.

The $4 billion project includes a mostly underground casino and a 1,200-room hotel that includes two residential towers that promise affordable housing and green space near the East River.

The casino would sit mostly underneath a 4.77-acre public park designed by OJB Landscape Architecture that would include a very prominent element—a Ferris wheel offering riders killer views of Manhattan.

The two residential towers, 50 and 60 stories, would include 1,325 apartments, nearly 40 percent of which would be “permanently affordable,” according to the developer. Two 51-story hotel towers would be branded as a Mohegan Hotel and a Banyan Tree Hotel.

The project also includes a conference and entertainment center, and the “Museum of Freedom and Democracy.” The museum would celebrate the origin and development of the nearby U.N. and the history of democracy itself. It would be shaped as a Möbius strip, providing walking paths atop it and sitting above a similarly shaped amphitheater.

Metropolitan Park

Developer: Steven Cohen
Casino Operator: Hard Rock International
Borough: Queens

Steve Cohen, the billionaire owner of the New York Mets, in partnership with Hard Rock International, is proposing an $8 billion casino, hotel and entertainment complex on 20 acres of current parking area at the Mets’ Citi Field ballpark in Queens. The surrounding property is home to Flushing Corona Park, the U.S. Open Tennis Center, and a planned soccer stadium for New York City FC, which is backed by Mayor Eric Adams.

The project would include a Hard Rock casino, a hotel and a music venue, plus 25 acres of green space, athletic fields, bike paths, and access to Flushing Bay. The project also would include a “Taste of Queens Food Hall,” a concert venue, and improvement of the transit facilities surrounding the area to the tune of $1 billion.

Cohen has said he will offer a community benefits package with the project, with support for responsible gaming and improvement of youth and senior services, including $10 million for a health clinic in East Elmhurst, $10 million for a youth and senior center in Corona, and $5 million for addiction and mental health services in Flushing.

MGM Empire City

Developer and Casino Operator: MGM Resorts International
City: Yonkers

In November, MGM Resorts International revealed its plan to pursue one of the downstate licenses by expanding its 4,600-VLT Empire City Casino, a racetrack casino, into a full-blown commercial casino with live table games.

Phase one of the expansion would include a comprehensive casino floor redevelopment, a 5,000-capacity entertainment venue, a state-of-the-art BetMGM sportsbook, food and beverage outlets by celebrated chefs, cocktail bars and lounges, technologically advanced meeting spaces and more.

The design includes the addition of several new destination dining experiences, including a modern steakhouse, a casual quick-serve Italian American experience and an authentic Asian noodle bar and eatery. Existing venues Big Kitchen food court and The Pub sports bar would transform into new, high-end food concepts.

The entertainment venue would be the first of its kind in the region, hosting A-list performers in a setting with unrivaled views, cutting-edge acoustics and dedicated amenities.

The BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge would offer lively game-day experiences with a 112-foot wrap-around LED screen, stadium seating, VIP areas, multiple betting kiosks and food and beverage operations.

The plan also includes development of a new parking garage.

The project cost is estimated at $2 billion, and MGM says it will lead to an influx of 13,000 jobs, including thousands of direct hires, and $1 billion in economic activity to the region.

Resorts World New York City

Developer and Casino Operator: Genting Group
Borough: Queens

In February, Genting Group announced its plan to pursue one of the downstate licenses with a $5 billion transformation of its Resorts World New York City (RWNYC) racino and hotel in Queens into a full-blown integrated casino resort.

The proposed 350,000-square-foot casino floor would be one of the largest in the world, according to the operator “staffed by a diverse workforce filled by New York City residents who will go through rigorous training to deliver a best-in-class gaming experience.”

The project would add 1,600 new hotel rooms on top of the 400 already online at the Hyatt Regency JFK Airport at RWNYC. A new, 7,000-seat entertainment venue would be joined by the Ayu DayClub, which would offer custom curated beverages and the hottest DJs from around the globe.

New food and beverage options would range from concepts by celebrity chefs Scott Conant and Marcus Samuelsson to local concepts highlighting the culinary breadth of Queens. Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-American, James Beard Award-winning chef, is a culinary ambassador for RWNYC and Queens.

The future consolidation of horse racing at Belmont Park will allow the state to open a process to re-envision the remaining Aqueduct parcel at Empire City. RWNYC is making a multimillion-dollar commitment to propose and engage the community in jointly creating a new Aqueduct Park to honor the legacy of the historic track while serving the needs of today. Aqueduct Park represents an additional $5 billion investment.

The project also would include 3,000 homes that would prioritize families in need of quality, workforce housing, and transportation improvements to JFK International Airport that would enhance mass transit connectivity in southeast Queens.

The new RWNYC would create 5,000 permanent union jobs, half of which would start within the first 100 days of full casino operations. RWNYC would create an in-house dealer school to meet the new demand.

Sands New York

Developer and Casino Operator: Las Vegas Sands
Borough: Long Island, Nassau County

The Nassau County Legislature voted 17-1 in 2022 to grant a 99-year lease on the land surrounding Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, former home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, to Las Vegas Sands, which has proposed a $4 billion integrated casino resort on 72 acres at the location.

In addition to the Sands New York casino, the project would include outdoor community spaces, four- and five-star hotel rooms and a world-class live performance venue honoring the long legacy of live music at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The resort property would also feature celebrity chef restaurants, experiential events and venues, and flexible meeting and convention space, including ballrooms. Other planned amenities include a luxurious day spa, swimming pool and health club, and a variety of other entertainment programming.

In keeping with long-running LVS integrated resort policy, the casino itself would occupy less than 10 percent of the total square footage.

The operator has pledged to work with Long Island communities to co-create a development plan and bid that ensures that the new integrated entertainment and hospitality resort “maximizes economic opportunity, helps to build stronger communities, and protects the quality of life for all Long Islanders,” according to the LVS website.

However, significant community opposition, headed by Hofstra University, has threatened to derail the project. In January, community residents showed up 300-strong to criticize the plan in a public hearing, and in February, a judge ruled that LVS lacks a valid lease to operate the Coliseum and its surrounding land. An appeal of that decision is pending.

Saks Fifth Avenue

Developer: Hudson’s Bay Company
Casino Operator: To Be Determined
Borough: Manhattan

In January 2023, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), owner of the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue stores, announced its plan to pursue a 200,000-square-foot casino to be spread across the top three floors of its famous flagship store in Midtown Manhattan.

The gaming space would be a James Bond/Monte Carlo-style casino. The store released renderings showing men in suits or even tuxedos, women in gowns, and beautiful people milling amid table games.

Saks would create a separate entrance for the casino, complete with a red carpet opening to a lobby with crystal chandeliers. The casino entrance would be on the ninth floor, where servers would be dressed in black tie and hand out champagne flutes to gamblers.

“In Monte Carlo they have fancy casinos, so why not in Manhattan? Why should Manhattan have another slobby casino? We need spectacular,” HBC Executive Director and CEO Richard Baker told the New York Times.

Wynn New York City

Developers: Related Companies, Oxford Properties Group
Casino Operator: Wynn Resorts
Borough: Manhattan

Real estate developer Related Companies has partnered with Oxford Property Group and Wynn Resorts to propose a gaming resort in the Hudson Yards neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side.

Wynn Resorts is planning a typically spectacular resort for the parcel, a $12 billion complex consisting of multiple skyscrapers that would include 1,500 apartments, 2 million square feet of office space, a 750-seat public school and day care center, and a hotel and casino operated by Wynn.

The development is slated to rise directly west of the first-phase redevelopment of the Hudson Yards neighborhood, over the 13-acre open-air former Western Rail Yards.

One schematic design puts the casino within the five-story podium of an 80-story, 1,189-foot super-tall skyscraper along the northern end of the rail yards, near the Jacob K. Javits Center and northernmost terminus of the High Line. The 2.7-million-square-foot tower would hold 1,750 guest rooms along with a conference center, retail, and restaurant space. A 1,366-foot office building would include the school along with a separate 1,172-foot super-tall residential skyscraper including 1,507 units, of which 324 would be dedicated to affordable housing. The area in between would feature six acres of public open space.

Hudson Yards West would provide 3,500 union construction jobs and 5,000 permanent careers in the resort.

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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