State budget set for April 1

New York could greenlight three downstate casino licenses this week amid location lobby, local control concerns

Resorts World in New York is among parties lobbying in the state.
United States
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As New York State nears the approval of the state budget, set for April 1, odds indicate that, by the end of the week, the Empire State will move to authorize three casino licenses for the New York City area. Gov. Kathy Hochul first announced in January a plan to speed up the licensure process under the budget, as the permits were originally slated for next year.

According to The New York Times, New York City Mayor Eric Adams wants the city to get two of the three licenses, his spokesman said, instead of seeing the second end up somewhere else, like Long Island. 

Additionally, the cited source reports that Frank Carone, Adams’ chief of staff, has recently met with Robert Goldstein, chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands. The gaming giant is among a number of casino companies with an interest in pursuing a project in New York.

Robert Goldstein, CEO of Las Vegas Sands

But The New York Times says major action is currently taking place in Albany, with seven gambling companies spending more than $300,000 a month on lobbying, and coordinating with the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, the influential union representing hotel workers.

Meanwhile, local media reports that Genting Group’s Resorts World has invested in a public-relations campaign -run by Neal Kwatra, a political consultant who also works for the union- spotlighting how casinos would benefit hotel workers.

The three proposed licenses were first outlined in a constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2013, which called for a total of seven permits, of which the first four went to upstate racetracks. Meanwhile, the downstate licenses were prohibited until 2023.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is seeking to speed up the licensure process

Hochul’s plan speeds up the timeline by doing away with penalties downstate operators would have to pay to the upstate casino owners if they moved forward before the ban expires. The news quickly found support among lawmakers and casino companies, in addition to launching a lobbying frenzy and fierce competition.

But as state lawmakers negotiate the issuance of the licenses and casinos campaign for their projects, a debate over how much control local government officials and community leaders should have in deciding where the casinos would be built is gaining momentum.

"We want to make sure all the parties involved have some say as to if the location as proposed is acceptable by them," said New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, according to Spectrum News.

NY Sen. Joe Addabbo

"I didn't have community input when I had Resorts World thrust upon us," said Sen. Joe Addabbo, Pretlow's counterpart in the state Senate. "I'm thankful 10 years later that we have it. But we couldn't even pick out the color of the carpet." 

He further said an agreement can be reached, depending on how much control municipal interests are seeking in siting. "But community input is important," Addabbo further said, according to the news source. "The degree of community input is what's being discussed." 

The senator had previously described MGM and Genting as likely candidates for two of the three licenses, given the companies already operate gaming venues in the city. Earning a new license would permit them to expand their offerings to full-scale casino gaming.