Downstate New York casino license hopefuls are having an experience that may be familiar to many New York City apartment-seekers. The latter often need a pile of cash to cover the first month’s rent, last month’s, and a security deposit. The former, the would-be gaming facility operators, must hand over $1 million just to be considered for one of three gaming facility licenses, then spend at least $1 billion if they receive one.
Those details are contained in the 70-page document released by the New York Gaming Facility Board (NYGFB) yesterday. The Request for Applications to Develop and Operate a Gaming Facility in New York State (RFA) says applicants must send their first round of questions by Feb. 3.
The document includes information about the $1 million application fee. This may increase if the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) decides it requires more money to investigate the applicant. The document then explains the $500 million license fee and a “minimum capital investment” of $500 million. The latter refers to the investment in developing the property but excludes land costs.
Even if applicants meet all of those requirements, the board may not pick them for a Downstate New York casino license.
If that months-long process sounds pricier than Times Square, not quite. Because that is where at least one aspirant would like to place the pre-named Caesars Palace Times Square.
Downstate New York Casino License Process Welcomed
At least one advocate of expanding gambling in New York was excited about the RFA process beginning.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Ozone Park, issued this statement:
When mobile sports betting went live in New York nearly one year ago, the New York State Gaming Commission did an incredible job in outlining the rules, regulations, and timeline for operators to provide New Yorkers with top-of-the-line products. And the benefits from that decision are now being felt across the state as New York has already taken in more than $500 million in tax revenue in just about one year.
I am looking forward to a transparent, accurate, and speedy process from the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, under the guidance of the Gaming Commission, as they unanimously voted to issue a Request for Applications (RFA) to solicit proposals for up to three commercial casinos in New York State. I have faith that the Location Board will thoroughly examine each RFA and make the best short- and long-term decision, based on their set of criteria.
The quicker the three licenses are approved, the quicker we can begin to realize the major benefits to the state, such as thousands of construction and post-construction jobs, billions in revenue from the licenses, an increase in problem gambling monies and programs, as well as billions more in educational funding when the winning casinos go live.
If Addabbo’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he sponsored a bill to legalize online casino and poker in New York. He’s discussing the proposed legislation with fellow New York State Legislature members to try to have them approve iGaming this year.
3 Downstate New York Casino License Holders, 4 Upstate
The RFA mentioned that this process will complete a decade-long quest to fill seven commercial casino license opportunities.
The board said:
In 2013, the New York State Constitution was amended to authorize up to seven commercial casinos in the state. Subsequently, the State sited four destination resort casinos in Upstate New York. In 2022, the enacted New York State Budget established a new siting process and criteria for the remaining three licenses.
Those four Upstate New York casino license holders are the partners of New York’s nine online sportsbooks.
So at the end of this Downstate New York casino license applicant selection process, officials may revisit expanding the number of possible Empire State mobile sports betting sites.
Land-Based Casinos Have Physical Neighbors
Commercial casinos can occupy a variety of neighborhoods or industrial areas. One way or another, though, they will have physical neighbors. The board has included steps to ensure the new Downstate New York retail casinos have happy neighbors.
The board said yesterday:
By statute, a separate, appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) will review Applications. In addition, the successful completion of municipal zoning and land-use processes will ensure that only projects embraced by the community would be presented to the Board for consideration. Other important components of the Application may depend upon the understanding of the potential competitive landscape with other Applicants, which may only be gauged after these processes have been completed.
Around March, each Community Advisory Committee (CAC) will form to evaluate individual applications.
The CACs formed for applicants in the Bronx, Kings, New York, Richmond, and Queens counties will have six members. The RFA calls for them to be appointed by Gov. Kathy C. Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and the “applicable” state senator, state House member, borough president, and city council member.
The RFA adds:
The Board cannot commence an evaluation of an Application unless:
• The applicable CAC has first approved the Applicant’s Application with a two- thirds majority vote.
• The Applicant has presented evidence of compliance and approval with all required State and local zoning requirements.
• The Applicant, if applicable, has waived a potential recoverable license fee amount.
• The Applicant has paid the $1 million application fee.
If New Yorkers want to comment before then, the board provided the public with an email address to provide the NYGFB with input.
So in the end, just like that wannabe renter, an applicant can have cash in hand and a great relationship with neighbors but still not be the siting board’s choice.
Still, it is a commercial casino operator’s job to dazzle, not just get the work done. In other words, the Downstate New York casino license process is about more than money.