Hundreds of Questions Arrive About 3 Downstate New York Casino Licenses

With “several hundred” questions to answer about three Downstate New York casino licenses, Robert Williams, executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), said on Feb. 27 that it’ll take another three weeks to answer them.

On Jan. 3, the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board (NYSGFLB) opened up the Request for Applications process. The commission appointed members of the board to oversee the casino siting procedures.

On Feb. 3, potential applicants met the first deadline in the process. They’d asked the board questions.

Actually, they asked the board hundreds of questions. While it’s possible each entity sent several queries, the volume of interest may mean there are more interested parties than what the public’s seen. From their perspective, it may seem as though only about a dozen organizations want licensees.

Because of that, the public seems to think those interested parties have a lock on the licenses. That’s false, said NYSGC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer. Speaking on Feb. 27 during the commission’s monthly meeting, he reiterated what he’d said on Oct. 3, 2022. That’s when the commission appointed the board, and O’Dwyer first said the process is a “tabula rasa.”

However, opined O’Dwyer on Feb. 27:

I’m sure it will be reported differently.

New York Casino Bids Aren’t in Yet

Because the board still needs to answer hundreds of questions from potential applicants, the commission’s site doesn’t yet show who will be submitting New York casino bids.

On Feb. 27, during the commission’s monthly meeting, Williams said the board received “several hundred” questions on Feb. 3.

Commission staff will need three more weeks to review the questions, find duplicate queries and consolidate them, then draft responses and get board approval.

At that point, the public will at least find out what types of clarification the possible retail casino license applicants submitted.

Then potential applicants will have four weeks (30 days) to ask questions in Round Two of the months-long process, Williams said.

The board will help the commission pick the three applicants best suited to purchase the three Downstate New York retail casino licenses. Those bidders will pay more than $1 billion for the privilege, most notably through the $500 million license fee and a “minimum capital investment” of $500 million.

Considering the application fee is $1 million, the commission may soon have some funds in hand.

However, state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. noted in a Feb. 16 interview with Bonus, New York coffers won’t see most of the new retail casinos’ tax revenue until 2026. That’s one of his reasons for advocating S4856 become law in 2023. Addabbo, D-Ozone Park, told Bonus that legalizing New York online casino and poker gambling in 2023 could provide as much as $1 billion in tax revenue as soon as 2024.

3 Downstate New York Licenses Are Available

In 2014, a siting board chose four Upstate New York retail casino license recipients. These three Downstate New York casino licenses will complete the seven full casino licenses allowed by New York law.

Even before the siting board issued the Jan. 3 Request for Applications, entities were alerting the public that they’d vie for the licenses.

The announcements about the following entities don’t mean that they submitted applications to the board:

  • Resorts World New York, an existing gaming facility in Queens
  • Empire City Casino in Yonkers, which is an MGM Resorts International property
  • Caesars Palace Times Square” is a proposal from Caesars Entertainment and SL Green Realty Corporation to renovate 1515 Broadway in Times Square.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue wants to convert the top three floors of its 10-story flagship store
  • Citi Field is another proposed retail casino site from Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International 
  • Coney Island is another proposed site, this one from developer Thor Equities and many partners 
  • Hudson Yards is a proposed casino site announced by the developer Related Companies and Wynn Resorts 
  • The former Hotel Pennsylvania near Penn Station and Madison Square Garden is the brainchild of Vornado Realty Trust
  • The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum may be “a multi-billion-dollar flagship hospitality, entertainment, and casino project on Long Island, New York,” by Las Vegas Sands 
  • United Nations headquarters guests may see a Ferris wheel, a “Democracy Museum,” a large hotel, and a retail casino if developer Soloviev Group and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment build the Freedom Plaza
  • Developing a casino at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx is the proposal from Bally’s Corporation

No Decisions Yet on New York Casino Bids

O’Dwyer reiterated that the process for deciding which organizations will get the three Downstate New York casino licenses is ongoing. The siting board hasn’t picked the winning New York casino bids.

He said the same during last month’s commission meeting.

On Jan. 17, O’Dwyer told the commission:

The questions regarding the RFA need to come in 30 days, and that is all set-out. As part of that, I noted that there is a quiet period. And the quiet period is that nobody in the commission, the staff, or site selection board is to be approached. And any such approaches, if they are approached either by principals interested in bidding or lobbyists engaged on their behalf, must be reported to the Commission Secretary. I have asked staff to give us, as soon as they get the information, a list of the people who are interested, the entities interested in bidding on casino licenses – and also those people that have been hired as lobbyists as representatives to speak on those peoples’ behalf.

All of us will have been or will be asked questions in that regard. Some very innocently by friends of ours or acquaintances who have nothing to do with it.

But others might be people [who] have an interest in the proceedings.

It is for that reason that I think it’s important that we know who has expressed an interest and who their representatives are. As soon as we get that – and I assume Mr. Williams will do that on a rolling basis as soon as people start expressing interest. I caution my colleagues that the rules are very specific and that we are not to discuss the process or the bidding with anyone who has an interest in it. I think that’s pretty clear.

That means no one knows yet who will be submitting New York casino bids – except that there will be a lot of them.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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