New York City Casino Flops

Plans to fast track a casino in New York City collapsed last week when Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (l.) pulled out of negotiations with the Cuomo administration, effectively killing the effort for this year.

New York City Casino Flops

The New York legislature last week removed the possibility of plan to fast track a casino in New York City after negotiations to add funds from the effort to the 2022 state budget. Governor Andrew Cuomo wanted the plan to add revenue from a casino to help the city and state recover from the pandemic. But several issues arose that precluded the success of this plan.

The financial reasoning for a New York casino was lessened recently when the federal government designated more than a trillion dollars to states to aid their recoveries. More pressing, however, was Cuomo’s demand that the state control the process of the siting of the casino and the choice of the owner/operator.

In a story published by the New York Post, Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who represents the Upper West Side, said he was very concerned.

“I adamantly oppose any casino in Manhattan,” he said. “I believe it would be seriously detrimental to the residential and commercial quality of Manhattan.”

More likely, however, Gottfried wanted to control the process, unlike the previous four casinos in upstate New York, where the state controlled the site selection and the licensing. Cuomo wanted that process to be duplicated for the three downstate casinos that were approved at the same time as the upstate casinos, in 2013. He also is believed to be concerned that giving Manhattan special circumstances in the casino process would encourage other groups to want favors in unrelated budget negotiations.

The 2013 legislation awarded four northern casinos in New York state, with three southern New York casinos eligible to be selected seven years after the opening of the first northern casino. Under those guideline, the southern casinos wouldn’t be eligible to be opened until 2023. But efforts to speed up the process began when the pandemic hit, and Cuomo was an instant fan, salivating at the $1.5 billion in licensing fees the three casinos would bring.

Conventional wisdom seems to guarantee full casinos to the two current racinos, Empire Casino in Yonkers, owned by MGM Resorts, and Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, owned by Malaysia’s Genting. But Yonkers officials aren’t taking any chances, holding a rally last week to encourage state officials to move quickly.

“Albany, can you hear me? Are you listening?” was a refrain mentioned several times during the rally. Labor officials say a full-scale casino will bring back jobs lost during the pandemic.

“Our members need jobs,” says Thomas Carey of Westchester Putnam Center Labor Body. “If we get the gaming license back, it creates thousands of jobs for many members.”

“Bringing living wage jobs to the region provides people with the economic security that they need to stabilize their lives and provide a future for their children,” says Shawyn Patterson-Howard, the mayor of neighboring town Mount Vernon.

While the collapse of the negotiations likely means the plan will be gone for this year, some still have hope.

Freeman Klopott, a spokeswoman for the New York State division of the budget, said the bill is still alive.

“With the influx of federal funding, there was less of an imperative to change the status quo, however we are continuing to work with the legislature to see if there is a path forward this year,” she said.

But a more powerful official says hope is gone for this year.

Senator Joe Addabbo, chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, told the Post, “There’s mere discussion at this point. There’s nothing really going on.”

Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands and the Bally’s Corp. were all considering bidding on the license and will likely use the added time to refine their presentations.