$220B agreement for 2022

New York Gov. Hochul's budget greenlights three downstate casinos; Mets owner pitching idea for venue

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
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The state of New York has now reached a conceptual agreement on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first budget for 2023. The $220 billion spending plan, which missed the initial April 1 deadline, is set to tap into lucrative revenue for the state by speeding up licenses for three new casinos.

The agreement between Hochul and New York State legislative leaders was reached on Thursday. The exact details and precise dollar figures behind individual budget items won’t become clear until the legislation is introduced. Lawmakers are expected to begin voting on Thursday night, as reported by the New York Times.

The upcoming venues are expected to open in the New York City area. The process of awarding licenses for the new downstate casinos was initially set to launch next year, but Gov. Hochul urged lawmakers to move the timeline: at some point in 2022, the state will open its competitive bidding process for the permits.

Operators seeking one of the three licenses would have to pay the state a minimum of $500 million for each permit, according to unreleased details obtained by The New York Times. Exact details and precise figures behind individual budget items are to become fully clear once the legislation is introduced.

The $500 million fee floor, which could potentially settle at the $750 million range, was initially proposed at $1 billion in the one-house Senate budget. However, casino interests criticized this move, which could explain why it is now being lowered.

Under the casino deal, a six-member board of political appointees would have a say over the location of any new casino, a move set to give local communities a voice in the process, further reports the cited source. The siting review board would determine locations on a majority vote.

Resorts World Queens at Aqueduct Racetrack and Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, two existing venues in the New York City area, are likely to earn two of the permits. While they would have to go through the competitive bidding process as other parties would, they are to have an advantage in the process given speed to market and proven experience.

This would leave one license for another operator to take. Many believe it could go to Manhattan, which could prove to be a largely untapped market, but not all lawmakers are on board with the plan.

While Sen. Joe Addabbo had indicated he would like for the licensing process to be finalized by the end of the year, it still remains unclear what will be the timeline for the process. The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) is set to first issue a Request for Applications from interested bidders, and then assess proposals through a scoring system.

Interested parties in securing a license seem to include MLB'S New York Mets team owner Steve Cohen, reports Time Out, who has pitched the idea of building a casino in the parking lot of the Citi Field baseball stadium in Queens. It would be constructed on Willet Points, a 61-acres piece of land across the street from the ballpark. 

On Wednesday, Caesars Entertainment announced it has signed a multi-year deal with the Mets to turn its Caesars Sportsbook into the team’s Official Sports Betting Partner, in a partnership that also includes plans to open a new sportsbook lounge at Citi Field at the Metro Grille, scheduled to open during the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

In February, Politico reported that casino operators were actively looking at the area where the stadium is located as one of few sites for a casino. According to comments by Mayor Eric Adams, this proposed location should not be discarded.

“He is willing to talk to anyone who is committed to boosting our economy and helping our city recover from COVID-19," Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for Adams, said in an official statement retrieved by Time Out. "He is willing to consider any idea that would help achieve the goal."

What is sure thus far is that the process is set to attract heavyweights in the casino industry, which have begun lobbying for their own proposals and efforts. Last month, The New York Times reported 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.