New York State In-depth

State Opens State Casino License Application Window

ALBANY — New York state on Tuesday opened the bidding window for three downstate casino licenses, in a competition expected to attract large gaming companies looking to build on Long Island, the five boroughs or Westchester County.

It’s also expected to generate money for the state: billions of dollars in royalties and plant investments. The process is widely expected to continue at least into the last quarter of this year.

In a meeting that lasted less than 30 minutes, the New York Gaming Facility Location Board approved opening the window to receive “applications” – essentially proposals – for three casino licenses.

The board purposely said it is not setting an end date at this time. Rather, it released an evaluation card showing how bids are evaluated (capital investments, job prospects, leadership and workforce diversity and others), and said applicants have until February 3 to give the board a “first round” of questions to submit.

And there should be at least two such rounds of questions in which the developers specify what goes into a successful application.

Meanwhile, the board also approved a minimum license fee of $500 million per application, as required by state law. It also said the minimum investment in the facility would be $500 million, although several sources working with gambling interests suggested bids would be coming in at much higher levels.

Even the board recognized that the amount was a floor, not a ceiling.

“Each applicant is free to submit a larger capital investment,” said Stuart Rabinowitz, board member and past president of Hofstra University.

In 2013, New Yorkers approved a constitutional amendment that allowed seven casinos — four upstate and three upstate — to give the green light to upstate facilities first on a staggered schedule.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature last year passed legislation opening up downstate competition this year.

There are three licenses up for grabs, but former Gov. David A. Paterson, who works for Las Vegas Sands Corp. works predicted that Resorts World at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens and Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway will claim two.

This view is widely shared, in part because the two already have video slots and could make a quick transition to busy casinos.

That would lead to other companies vying for a final license.

Possible locations that have been mentioned include Times Square, Hudson Yards and Penn Station in Manhattan, Hunts Point in the Bronx, Willets Point in Queens, Coney Island in Brooklyn, and Hempstead in Nassau County.

Last month, Newsday reported that Sands was considering the Nassau Hub, which includes the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a possible location.

Some development groups have been open about what they have in mind.

A group that includes Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings and the Chickasaw Nation said Tuesday it intends to submit a proposal for a Coney Island casino.

“For more than a generation, Coney Island has waited for a year-round economy that creates not only jobs but careers… We look forward to submitting our bid and setting a new standard for economic recovery and resilience for New York,” he said group said in a statement.

Developer SL Green Realty previously said it is working with Caesar’s Entertainment to make a bid to bring a casino to Times Square.

Wynn Resorts and the Related Companies, a developer, has announced plans to build a casino at Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side.

Steve Cohen, a hedge fund manager and owner of the New York Mets, is reportedly eyeing a mixed-use project at either Willets Point or Citi Field that could include a casino.

Crucially, any proposal must also receive the approval of a local “Community Advisory Committee” made up largely of representatives from local and state officials.

Local opposition could sink an offer – the casino’s site committee said in materials it released on Tuesday it would not even consider an offer unless developers first secure a two-thirds majority from the local body.

It is expected that the timing of the local review process will be fleshed out as bidders submit questions to the casino board.

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