Gambling and hospitality operator Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation, and entertainment company Legends are partnering with developer Thor Equities on a “comprehensive” casino, hotel and entertainment bid for Coney Island. The move, unveiled Tuesday, comes as New York State prepares to issue three downstate casino licenses in the coming months.
Described as an investment of more than $3 billion, completely made up of private funds, the project is expected to create 2,500 construction jobs. “It will also create thousands of permanent ones,” the parties said, highlighting that job creation and economic development “have been awaited by Coney Island’s residents long before the pandemic.”
“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 as having a “proven track record,” running what it claims to be the most successful racino in Upstate New York. The casino and hotel operator, which has expanded its operations to Colorado and Mississippi, is seeking to bring its experience in running gambling properties to this new project.
Saratoga Casino in New York
The company operates 175,000 square feet of casino gaming space; plus entertainment venues, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. The firm says combining its experience with that of the Chickasaw Nation will provide Coney Island with “expertise in gaming, coupled with a deep understanding” of the importance of meeting local community needs. Both would operate gaming in the new joint project.
“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. “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 Electronic Games, 2,000+ hotel rooms, 30+ 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,” a press release highlights. 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. 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.
“We look forward to a successful collaboration based on our combined strengths and perhaps most importantly – our shared commitment to developing a top-tier entertainment venue that promises to respect the history of the neighborhood and breathe new life into this iconic New York City landmark,” Lance further noted.
As for Legends, the venture’s entertainment partner, a press release highlights the company brings “three decades of experience” delivered in the New York, national, and global markets, ranging from stadiums to concert venues to conventions. “The organization brings with it not only its unsurpassed record but a commitment to union employment opportunities in Coney Island and for the greater Coney Island Community,” the firm said.
“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,” said Bill Rhoda, President, Legends Global Planning. “This incredible resort will be a world-class entertainment destination, with gaming, a variety of restaurants and entertainment for locals and tourists year-round.”
The last partner in the bid, Thor Equities Group, was founded in 1986 in New York by CEO and Chairman Joe Sitt. With headquarters in New York City, London, and Mexico City, Thor Equities invests across North America, Europe, and Latin America and has built a global portfolio of assets across the industrial, office, retail, mixed-use and hospitality sectors.
“New York will always be our home and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to reclaim Coney Island’s legacy and bring new economic possibilities to an iconic neighborhood,” said Sitt. “With our incredible partners, we are committed to creating lasting prosperity for a community and its residents and turning Coney Island into a vibrant year-round destination for all to enjoy.”
The project has received the backing of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Randy Peers, President & CEO, said: “This project will finally stimulate our local economy in a way that turns Coney Island into a year-round destination. Most importantly, it will create all-year full-time employment for our local residents who can grow their careers and serve the community they grew up in.”
“A project of this magnitude in Coney Island can only be accomplished by employing local residents and contracting with local businesses,” a joint statement adds. “The partners are committed to MWBE hiring in addition to working with local institutions to create a job training program with a focus on hospitality and gaming that then hires directly from residents of Brooklyn and Queens.”
With this latest announcement, the fierce battle to win a New York City casino license keeps heating up. The bid follows a proposal last month by real estate heavyweight SL Green and casino-entertainment giant Caesars Entertainment, with plans for “a premiere entertainment and gaming destination” in the heart of Times Square.
However, these two bids face a number of obstacles, including other competing projects. Among them is a plan for a casino in Hudson Yards from real estate and gambling giants Related Companies and Wynn Resorts, which would be located on the undeveloped western portion of the area, fulfilling prior housing and public space commitments.
Additionally, 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.