For months, the consensus opinion almost assured that two of the three casino licenses up for grabs in the New York City region would go to a pair of existing racinos. The reason? They have the infrastructure in place and can convert to full casino status without building from the ground up.
However, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, a competitive bidding process offers no guarantee that either of the two properties would get the nod. Genting operates Resorts World New York City in Queens, as well as Resorts World Catskills and a Resorts World Las Vegas. MGM Resorts runs Empire City Casino in Yonkers, Westchester County.
No matter. Interest is still high.
“We are thrilled that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature have reached an agreement to allow the state to issue the available commercial casino licenses,” MGM President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in an email. “…MGM Resorts looks forward to responding to the anticipated request for applications and is excited by the opportunity to bring thousands of quality jobs and meaningful private investment to Westchester and the region.”
CBRE Equity Research pointed out in a note to investors that a bidding process could drive up the cost of a license set to a minimum of $500 million as well as the cost of taxes beyond the minimum of 25 percent for slots and 10 percent for table games. The market expects to generate $4.8 billion in gross gaming revenue among the three new licensed properties.
Even at the minimum numbers, the tax rates rank among the highest in the country. Las Vegas has a maximum of 6.75 percent, while Atlantic City is at 9.75 percent.
In addition to Resorts World and MGM, other companies with a Las Vegas presence interested in New York City include Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., Hard Rock International, Bally’s Corp., and Rush Street Gaming, which currently has no Nevada properties.
New York is surrounded by gaming states and annually sees billions of dollars flowing from New Yorkers to the state coffers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut, the Sands said in October.
Potential casino sites for the three licenses include St. George on Staten Island; Times Square and on the banks of the East River in Manhattan; and Belmont Park in Elmont on Long Island, just east of the city limits.
Another voice has spoken up: Hunts Point on the Bronx waterfront. Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo says a casino would be just the economic engine for the borough.
A casino could bring thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs, she added.
City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., whose South Bronx district includes Hunts Point, said that while advocating for a casino is not a priority for him, he envisions vacant Hunts Point waterfront property as a good site for one.
“If I get a call from someone that’s interested in doing this, my ears and my doors are open to hearing them out and making sure that it’s the right fit,” Salamanca told the Bronx Times. “And if it’s something that could be a reality and my community could benefit from, I will support it.”
Councilwoman Amanda Farías, whose district neighbors Salamanca’s to the east, had a similar reaction. She is happy to support a councilmember who wants a casino, particularly with local hiring, living wages and career pathways.
“Generally, I think bringing any new type of career, job, economic growth opportunity to the Bronx, where our employment was the most affected during the pandemic, is a great idea,” said Farías, who chairs the City Council Economic Development Committee.
Salamanca pointed out that the possibilities wouldn’t stop with table games, as lodging and restaurants would add to the potential of an “economic boom.”
The proximity to Yonkers’ Empire City—mere minutes from the Bronx border—may pose challenges for making a Hunts Point site a reality, but Salamanca said the Bronx should still be part of the conversation.
More than 30 percent of Empire City’s workforce are Bronx residents, according to a spokesperson for MGM Resorts, which owns Empire City.