The committee that will award the three casino licenses for New York’s “southern tier” are going to have quite a selection of proposals, no doubt all of them somewhat controversial. A casino in Times Square tops that list.
“An unprecedented and dangerous experiment,” says the latest pronouncement from the Broadway League. It is the strongest yet of its opposition to a casino in Times Square. The League, which represents theater owners and producers, has threatened a prolonged war against the largest commercial landlord, SL Green, and Caesars Entertainment who have zeroed in on the company’s property at 1515 Broadway.
The conflict between the ayes and the nays over a casino in New York City’s prime retail estate will play out in most of the locations evolving as the site. The two existing racinos are considered front-runners for two of the three licenses: Genting Group’s Resorts World New York City in Queens and MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers, N.Y., which would be allowed to expand their offerings into full-casino gaming if granted licenses. But even this could be controversial, with New York Governor Kathy Hockul being criticized for accepting campaign donations from each during her recently concluded re-election campaign.
A casino on Times Square, according to League president Charlotte St. Martin, will destroy neighborhood restaurants, increase congestion and bring nothing in return, according to the New York Post.
Previous statements predicted that a casino would “overwhelm the already densely congested area” and destroy the vitality of the famed theater industry.
St. Martin reminded supporters that the goal of casinos is to keep customers inside gambling, not outside dining.
“Limited budgets would be cannibalized by casino gambling” even as Broadway struggles back from the pandemic.
SL Green and Caesars say just the opposite, that an upscale casino would prevent the district from sliding back into its bad-old-days era of crime and blight.
Project details from the developer will not be released until the state asks for specifics later this month.
The latest in the saga of licensing a casino in or around New York City brings the Mets and Yankees in a competition worth more than a World Series ring neither team could stick around long enough to collect.
Mets owner Steve Cohen has already declared his site would be in Queens not far from Citi Field. His ace in a hole is the promise of a 25,000 seat soccer stadium in Willets Point. Cohen has discussed the casino proposal with Hard Rock and Las Vegas Sands as possible partners.
The Yankees are a relative newcomer in the scramble. Their dream location is Coney Island in Brooklyn. The Yankees co-founded, and own 25 percent of a firm called Legends, which is joining Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings and The Chickasaw Nation in the quest to secure a location. Oh yeah, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones owns 25 percent of Legends as well.
Legends’ itself has a stake in 1 World Trade Observatory, the Circle Line, the Intrepid Museum and Major League Baseball stores.
For those unfamiliar with Coney Island, the famous waterfront is where the Mets minor league team, the Cyclones play. Ask an old-timer and they’ll tell you the Dodgers called Brooklyn home for eons before abandoning the city for L.A. in the late 1950s.
“The Legends people are involved in the entertainment portion of the proposal, which is being put together,” said James Featherstonhaugh, a lobbyist in Albany and one of the principals on Saratoga Casino.
“This partnership allows officials to draw on the expertise and institutional knowledge of respected developers and operators while also fulfilling a generations-long promise to Coney Island by providing the region with a permanent, thriving local economic engine,” the parties said in a joint statement. “If awarded a license, Coney Island’s economy will no longer be so singularly dependent on summertime amusement park visitors.”
Saratoga Casino Holdings describes itself in the statement as having a “proven track record,” running what it claims to be the most successful racino in Upstate New York. The company operates 175,000 square feet of casino gaming space; plus entertainment venues, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
“My family has done business in New York for generations, including opening the first non-tribal casino in 2004 which has contributed over $1.2 billion to New York State education,” said Sam Gerrity, CEO of Saratoga Casino Holdings, according to casino.org. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Thor Equities Group, LLC and Global Gaming Solutions, LLC, two world-class organizations, to bring a community-friendly gaming and entertainment venue to Coney Island.”
The Chickasaw Nation, along with its business entity Global Gaming Solutions, operates more than 25,000 EGTs, 2,000-plus hotel rooms, 30-plu restaurants and a number of retail outlets.
“The business portfolio includes the largest casino in the world, WinStar World Casino and Resort which hosts 9 million guests annually,” said the company in a press release. The Chickasaw Nation also employs nearly 13,500 people.
“We currently enjoy an excellent strategic partnership with Legends at our flagship property WinStar World Casino and Resort (in Oklahoma). Our investment and involvement in this project reflect a desire to expand that relationship and extend it to additional strategic partners in Thor and Saratoga,” Global Gaming Board Chairman Bill Lance said.
The Yankees declined comment but Legends president Bill Rhoda, released a statement. “Legends is proud to work with Thor Equities and our gaming partners Saratoga Casino and The Chickasaw Nation to provide our operational and experiential expertise to bring the preeminent resort casino in New York to Coney Island.”
Rhoda said the Coney Island resort will offer world class entertainment and dining options year-round.
“We’re never afraid of a fight,” Melissa Gliatta, chief operating officer for Thor Equities, told the New York Post. “We’re scrappy. We believe in Coney Island. Coney Island needs this project.”
According to the Post, Cohen, who spent more than $334,000 on outside lobbyists, proposes a $780 million mixed-used project, which also includes 2,500 units of affordable housing, a hotel and the stadium for the New York City Football Club.
“They view the stadium plan as a big selling point for the casino,” said a City Hall source. “Anything that shows the state that more people will be coming to the Willets Point area will only help the casino plan.”
Cohen has also considered the parking lot adjacent to Citi Field. But would need to get the parkland designation on the lots removed.
A partnership between real estate heavyweight SL Green and casino-entertainment giant Caesars Entertainment has targeted Times Square.
Another competitor calls for a casino in the massive Hudson Yards project, this one from real estate and gambling giants Related Companies and Wynn Resorts, which would be located on the undeveloped western portion of the area, adjacent to the city’s Javits Convention Center, fulfilling prior housing and public space commitments.
Senator Joe Addabbo is the legislative point person for all things gambling. And the awarding of one of three casino licenses in the New York City area is a jackpot waiting to happen. What does he say about the competition for the third license? He says let’s go Jets as in move out of New Jersey and back to New York.
He wants the Jets to return to play in a new stadium proposed in Willets Point. In other words, he’s backing Cohen’s proposal, but would like to add a 70,000 plus stadium for the Jets, either as a separate field to the proposed soccer field or as a single, larger stadium for both sports, according to Legal Sports Report.
Addabbo knows this idea is half baked, or so far-fetched it isn’t baked at all.
Addabbo says there is room for both a soccer and football stadium, along with a hotel, casino and housing under Cohen’s scheme. Traffic would be a nightmare that would have to be addressed as would infrastructure.
“The Jets coming back to New York would be monumental.”
“If you’re building a stadium—and I know it’s only 25,000 seats—but if you’ve got that kind of incentive to build a stadium, if the opportunity is there with the land and the expiring leases, we can connect the dots, why miss this opportunity?” Addabbo said.
“To go into a brand-new stadium as the New York Jets and the marketing behind it, that just blows it out of the water.
The Jets currently share 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium with the Giants. However, either team can get out of the 25-year stadium lease in 2025 if they give the state of New Jersey 12-months’ notice.
New York State brought in $1.54 billion in online sports betting handle last month. Through November 20, New York operators have combined for $14 billion in handle, leading to nearly $600 million in tax revenue.
“Imagine if New Yorkers actually got to bet on an actual New York football club called the New York Jets,” Addabbo said. “I think it’s that much more of an enticing business that we would have for online sports betting.”
Mets owner Steve Cohen has continued lobbying efforts for a downstate casino in the Citi Field parking lot in partnership with Hard Rock through New Green Willets.
“I’ll reserve judgment until I see all the submissions,” Addabbo said. “Two in Queens, you’re really going to have to convince the siting board or the gaming commission that long-term this makes sense financially. That it’s not just a novelty. Is it sustainable? I think that’s a hard argument to make.”
Las Vegas Sands, possibly having fallen into disfavor with Cohen, announced last week it would shift its target to Long Island to avoid the traffic jams that a New York City casino would surely create.
Former New York Governor and now LVS Vice President David Patterson told a Chamber of Commerce meeting it makes sense.
“The most important thing about the location of a casino is proximity to the airports because a very high percentage of gamblers fly around the world and go to these casinos,” he told Newsday. “So, Long Island, particularly right at the edge with Queens, you can get to the airport in 15 minutes sometimes.”
Patterson mentioned Nassau County, in the middle of Long Island, as a possible site, particularly the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the former home of the NHL New York Islanders, now used primarily as a concert venue.
Newsday also reported that sources indicated the UBS Arena/Belmont Park area in Elmont, now home to the Islanders, is also being considered for a site.
Sands executives Ron Reese and Norbert Riezler told the Chamber that LVS would invest up to $4 billion, which would include a large portion of meetings and convention space.