New York Legislators Working on Downstate Retail Casino License Solution

With 13 days left in the legislative session, New York lawmakers are building a bill designed to end the impasse on the downstate retail casino license process. State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. told Bonus on May 15 that he believes this is the “biggest” legal gambling expansion measure the Assembly and Senate may be able to complete by June 6.

Addabbo, D-Woodhaven, also told Bonus there’s no bill number yet because:

We’re still working on the language.

He proposed a “multitasking” method for the downstate license application process. Addabbo believes a board appointed by the state gaming regulator can consider applications while potential retail casino developers resolve their land use issues. That way, the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board (NYSGFLB) can decide which applications represent the best possible projects.

The gaming regulator, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), appointed members of the NYSGFLB in 2022 to oversee the siting portion of the licensing process. The board will then recommend to the commission which downstate retail casino license applicants should be approved.

That hasn’t happened yet.

Billions Are at Stake

In a previous Bonus interview, Addabbo said creating that multitasking method could mean casino licensees could fill New York coffers with as much as $2.75 billion by March 2025. Those funds would come from $1 million application fees and bids on the licenses that start at $500 million each. However, Addabbo thinks competing developers may drive the price as high as $1 billion per license.

A multitasking approach could mean licenses are awarded simultaneously with land use issue resolutions.

What the Gaming Regulator Says

A board appointed by the state gaming regulator has yet to formally request applications for the three new full commercial casino licenses.

That license process began on Jan. 3, 2023, and has not progressed since Oct. 6, 2023.

At a March 25, 2024, gaming commission meeting, NYSGC Executive Director Robert Williams said the process was stalled because potential applicants’ land use issues wouldn’t be resolved until at least Q1 2025.

What’s a ‘Land Use Issue’?

The most expensive casino proposal would place an $8 billion, 50-acre development in Queens. However, the project partnering Hard Rock International with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen hit a roadblock.

To continue, AB5688 to “discontinue the use as parkland and alienate certain land within Flushing Meadows Corona Park” must be approved by June 6. However, state Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-East Elmhurst, hasn’t yet co-sponsored the bill.

Meanwhile, Cohen and his supporters are pushing hard.

First, a Cohen casino lobbyist visited Albany on May 8 to talk to the Assembly and Senate leaders, Politico reported.

Next, a Queens rally on May 13 that got press coverage from the New York Post.

Meanwhile, Ramos hasn’t returned a request for comment from Bonus.

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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