In the final days of legislative session

NY lawmakers push for accelerated NYC casino licenses to boost revenue

A rendering of the proposed project in Hudson Yards from Wynn Resorts
Reading time 1:56 min

Two New York state lawmakers are advocating for a bill to expedite the awarding of casino licenses in the New York City area, arguing that the current timeline is costing the state billions in potential revenue.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) are leading the charge with proposed legislation that would mandate bids be submitted by July 31 this year, with the New York State Gaming Commission required to approve the three casino licenses by March 31 next year. The push comes in the final days of the state legislative session.

The current schedule set by state gaming commissioners anticipates awarding licenses by Dec. 31, 2025. This timeline has been criticized by various stakeholders, including a top executive from operator Sands, which is seeking to open a facility at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island.

Some argue that the drawn-out process benefits bidders facing political or zoning challenges, such as Mets owner Steve Cohen, who aims to build an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex next to Citi Field in Queens, and the Related Companies/Caesars bid, proposing a $12 billion complex in Hudson Yards, Manhattan.

Conversely, the expedited timeline could favor existing slots parlors Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack and MGM Empire City at Yonkers Raceway. Both venues are already operational and would be able to expand to offer live card games if they secure licenses.

Rendering for the proposed MGM Empire City expansion project

Addabbo and Pretlow deny favoritism, asserting their goal is to accelerate the process to create jobs and generate additional state revenue. "It's taking too long. There are inefficiencies," Addabbo said. His district borders the Resorts World slots parlor at Aqueduct in Queens. "We have to move. There are 5,000 jobs on hold — minimally."

Each successful bidder would pay the state an upfront license fee of at least $500 million. The proposed law would give winning bidders two years to resolve any land-use or legal issues, though it remains uncertain if locally appointed siting boards would recommend bids with unresolved issues to the gaming commission.

For example, Cohen’s project requires legislative approval to reclassify land around Citi Field from parkland to commercial use. State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), representing the proposed site area, has so far not supported the bill or the project.

Meanwhile, Pretlow, whose district is near the Yonkers racino, echoed Addabbo's urgency. “I’ve been trying to get the process moving,” he said. “It’s taking too long. We’re leaving $2 billion on the table. Why are we stringing this along? We’re spinning our wheels here.”

Governor Kathy Hochul, who oversees the gaming commission, has not committed to accelerating the licensing process. “Governor Hochul will review all legislation that passes both houses of the legislature,” a spokesman told The New York Post.

Other potential casino projects include bids by SL Green/Caesars/Roc Nation for Times Square, Bally’s at Ferry Point in The Bronx, Silverstein Properties in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Thor Equities consortium for Coney Island.

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