Yet another participant has entered the race for a downstate New York casino. The latest bid comes from developer Soloviev Group and its operator partner Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.
Soloviev plans to create an entertainment district called Freedom Plaza on Manhattan’s east side. Aside from the casino, the project highlights include a 1,000+ room hotel, a Ferris wheel, and a Democracy Museum.
Soloviev, “a pioneer and leader in socially responsible and environmentally sustainable development,” also aims to help NYC’s housing shortage by building two residential towers in the district. Additionally, the development will provide a substantial green space to benefit the community.
Rumors of the developer’s plans circulated in late 2022. At that time, however, the identity of its casino partner remained a secret.
Soloviev says that Freedom Plaza will create “thousands” of jobs and be easily accessible. It will be a short walk from Grand Central Station and the 34th Street ferry, for which Solviev is considering expanded service. The development will also have access to numerous bus stops and FDR Drive.
Mohegan Brings Gaming Experience
MGE is the gaming arm of the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut. Since 1996, the company’s portfolio has grown to encompass eight properties. Its US operations span five states, and it also has locations in Canada and South Korea.
Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun is the company’s flagship property and among the biggest casinos in the US. It includes two hotels, spas, an arena, a golf course, numerous restaurants, retail shopping, and more. Mohegan’s experience running upscale properties could prove vital in developing a potential New York City casino.
In addition to its retail casinos, Mohegan operates Mohegan Sun Online Casino in NJ and CT. The latter is a partnership with FanDuel and one of only two online casinos in Connecticut.
Downstate New York Licenses Are Attracting A Lot Of Interest
Under New York law, the Gaming Commission can only issue three downstate commercial casino licenses. The level of interest has been predictably high. Real estate developers like Soloviev see the potential for a multi-billion industry.
The hopefuls include some of the biggest names in NYC commercial real estate. SL Green Realty Group, the city’s foremost commercial developer, teamed up with Caesars Entertainment for a plan to build a casino in Times Square.
Vornado, SL Green’s closest competitor, is considering a casino development around Penn Station. While not official, sources say that Vornado would team up with Neil Bluhm, founder of Rush Street Gaming. That company is the operator of BetRivers, a top New York sportsbook.
Other casino proposals cover Queens and Coney Island. Even Saks Fifth Avenue’s owner, the Hudson’s Bay Company, wants to build a casino above the flagship store.
It’s a high-stakes competition because licenses won’t come cheap. The New York State Gaming Commission has established a $500 million minimum bid, plus a commitment to spend another $500 million on development.
Online Gaming Expansion Is Also On New York’s Agenda
Downstate casinos are coming one way or another, with only their locations and owners to be determined. The possibility of online casino gaming coming to New York is far less certain. With the success of NY sportsbooks and record tax revenue, proponents hope to expand online gaming in the state. That includes potential online casinos.
Online casino legislation is a hot topic in many states, and New York is no different. In front of a committee on Jan 31, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. said the state stands to lose $4 billion annually by not legalizing online casinos. Addabbo is the main force behind the push for gambling expansion in the legislature.
However, some state lawmakers are worried that online gaming will hurt the retail sector. At the same committee meeting, legislators shared their concern that iGaming could cannibalize land-based casinos. Sen. Addabbo hopes to get a separate online casino hearing in his quest to expand online gaming.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, has introduced an online poker bill in front of a committee. Pretlow is the chairman of that committee, the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering.