Multi-faceted opposition to the proposed Las Vegas Sands “multi-billion-dollar” retail casino at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum may reach its apex on May 24. That’s when Nassau Supreme Court Justice Sarika Kapoor‘s docket shows a scheduled “appearance date” in the Hofstra University vs. Nassau County Planning Commission lawsuit.
The Sands downstate New York retail casino project may eventually be among applications for three open downstate New York retail casino licenses. Winning projects are scheduled to be chosen later this year by a siting board appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC).
That honor will cost each applicant at least $1 billion. That includes a $500 million license fee, plus applicants must show they plan a “minimum capital investment” of $500 million.
However, the NYSGC and the board it appointed to select winners, the New York Gaming Facility Location Board (NYGFLB), haven’t released the names of the applicants.
That means the possible applicants are the only entities announcing information about proposed casino projects.
Nevertheless, various publications are reporting as fact that two existing gaming facilities will be chosen for the full licenses:
- Resorts World New York, an existing gaming facility in Queens
- Empire City Casino in Yonkers, which is an MGM Resorts International property
That’s still undecided, NYSGC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer has said.
Twice now, he’s emphasized in commission meetings that the process is a “tabula rasa.”
Proposed Sands Downstate New York Retail Casino
On Jan. 12, Sands announced plans for a “flagship hospitality, entertainment, and casino project” on 80 acres now occupied by the coliseum.
The press release mentioned the casino in its first paragraph, then didn’t revisit the subject until the end of the fourth. There, Sands said the casino “is planned to represent less than 10% of the project’s total square footage.”
Downplaying the proposed project’s gambling component, Sands instead touted “outdoor community spaces, four and five-star hotel rooms, and a world-class live performance venue honoring the long legacy of live music at the Nassau Coliseum.”
Indeed, pictures of the coliseum show upcoming concerts. For instance, the image attached to this article illustrates Jay-Z‘s 2017 concert. Coincidentally, Jay-Z is pushing for the “Caesars Palace Times Square” to become a Manhattan fixture if the siting board chooses it.
That proposed project, too, has organized opposition.
Hofstra’s Opposition to the Proposed Sands Casino
The case Hofstra filed on April 18 is among many protest efforts coalescing around the proposed Sands downstate New York retail casino.
However, the civil suit takes the fight to the Nassau County Planning Commission (NCPC), which granted Sands a lease for 72 acres of the coliseum property on April 27.
Hofstra, represented by Manhattan law firm Petrillo Klein + Boxer, has an “appearance date” scheduled for Wednesday in Nassau Supreme Court. It’s suing the unrepresented NCPC for allegedly holding a closed-door meeting with Sands on March 2 to discuss lease terms.
Hofstra’s complaint reads that holding a closed-door meeting violates the Open Meetings Law.
However, that was far from the only closed-door meeting the NCPC held with Sands before granting the lease on April 27, Hofstra’s filing alleges.
Hofstra’s amended complaint, dated May 4, adds:
In a string of mishandled putative public meetings, the Planning Commission has denied Hofstra University and the public an opportunity to debate serious issues having farreaching negative consequences for our community.
What Hofstra Leaders Might Have Said
Hofstra’s lawsuit says the university’s representatives didn’t get a chance to speak to the NCPC.
It appears they would’ve had a lot to say.
In March, Hofstra trustees published an “open letter” that included this paragraph about the proposed Sands downstate New York retail casino:
The Nassau Hub is an entirely inappropriate location for a casino. It is surrounded by educational institutions from preschool through graduate school, and a diversity of suburban communities that should not be exposed to the increased traffic congestion, crime, economic harm to local businesses, and other negative impacts that a casino development would likely bring. There are other locations in and around New York City to site a casino that are not in such proximity to multiple educational institutions where so many young people live and learn.
Also, perhaps the best way to illustrate why Hofstra’s leaders believe they may be impacted by a Sands downstate New York retail casino is on its Visitor’s Guide page:
Directions to the Admission Center
From Exit M4 of the Meadowbrook Parkway you will be on Route 24 West (Hempstead Turnpike). Stay on 24W for about one mile. Pass the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Hofstra University is on both sides of Hempstead Turnpike.
That may be the first glimpse of Hofstra on college tours before visitors join the 33,000-member student body.
Perhaps ironically, each proposed downstate casino needs approval from a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that the NYGFLB said would have to form in March.
Some of those meetings are getting heated, including one in Coney Island. The Brooklyn Eagle reported “residents verbally clashed with developers” at a meeting in April.
Other Sands Downstate New York Retail Casino Opposition
Within the web page housing the open letter, Hofstra trustees linked to a site for the Nassau Coalition for Responsible Development. The “pro-resident group” includes information opposing the proposed Sands downstate New York retail casino.
On Sunday and Monday, Say No to the Casino Civic Association is hosting protests at the Nassau County Legislature building. To further prevent county and Hempstead officials from approving the Sands lease, the association is also urging residents to sign a petition. On Monday, the legislature approved transferring the lease to Sands.
On Saturday, the New York Post published an article quoting “Queens activist Alfredo Centola.” In the piece, Centola alleges NYGFLB member Stuart Rabinowitz has “a serious conflict of interest” in the proposed Sands downstate New York retail casino situation.
Centola says Rabinowitz should step down from the board because the former president of Hofstra might vote against placing a casino next to the university. That might spell trouble for Queens, the activist believes.
As the Post puts it:
Opponents of Mets owner Steve Cohen’s bid to bring a casino next to Citi Field in Queens fear it could be aided by Hofstra University’s opposition over a rival bid for a casino in Nassau County.
Gaming Commission Responds
NYSGC Communications Director Brad Maione sent Bonus a lengthy response today to the allegations against Rabinowitz in the Post article.
Immediately, Maione told Bonus today:
There are no issues with Mr. Rabinowitz’s service.
Maione’s missive continues, elaborating on how Rabinowitz served on the siting board for the four upstate New York retail casinos. That body reviewed casino applications from 2014 to 2015.
He agreed once again to serve on the Board and was appointed in a public meeting of the Gaming Commission in October 2022 – months before any mention of a possible proposal in Nassau County.
The spokesman emphasizes the NYGFLB “has not yet set a deadline for formal applications.”
In other words, only Sands says it has a proposed Sands downstate New York retail casino.
Neither the Gaming Commission or the GFLB are commenting on any proposed projects.
Most recently, the body Rabinowitz sits on requested questions from would-be license applicants.
So, Maione tells Bonus:
Despite the frivolous claims of proponents and opponents of certain proposed projects, the casino siting process for up to three remaining commercial casino licenses will be fair, transparent and free from politics. The Gaming Facility Location Board members (of which three out of five members have been appointed) are committed to integrity and adhering to the statutory process outlined in the law.
Meanwhile, in researching Rabinowitz, Bonus discovered Kapoor attended Hofstra. Yet, unlike the Post article, no one appears to be accusing the judge hearing the Hofstra case of bias.