Las Vegas is the undisputed center of the gaming industry universe, but New York is making a bid to grab its share of attention this year.
Friday was the first of several key deadlines, as the state forges ahead in its effort to award three downstate casino licenses in the Empire State. For us West Coasters, downstate is defined as the New York City area and the counties of Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester.
In 2013, the New York Constitution was amended to authorize up to seven commercial casinos in the state. State officials sited four destination casino resorts in upstate New York. Nine years later, in 2022, lawmakers established a new siting process and criteria for the remaining three licenses. It’s a competitive process that is being overseen by the New York Gaming Commission and its three-member Gaming Facility Location Board.
Request for applications
That board, in January, distributed a 70-page “Request for Applications” document that has caught the attention of the biggest companies in gaming. Even before the formal release of the RFA, gaming companies began positioning themselves with partners to apply for licensing.
The New York Gaming Commission has made it clear that it’s interested in an integrated resort with plenty of nongaming amenities.
The RFA says each applicant is required to submit a $1 million fee to apply and the board will require a minimum $500 million investment in the resort. Once the winners have been selected, the license will cost $500 million, plus annual fees of $750 per slot machine or table game installed. Licenses will be good for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 30 years.
The first deadline involved the submission of questions by prospective applicants and were due Friday. The board hasn’t announced when its responses will be available, but 30 days after questions are asked and answered, a second question period will occur.
The board hasn’t set a timeline for the next step, which will include requirements to conduct public hearings by six-member community advisory committees composed of elected officials. No deadline has been set for formal submission of proposals.
So it’s a long process that may take a good portion of 2023 to complete. And while the price of admission is steep, the rewards will be handsome because of the limited competition.
The major competitors
Several Las Vegas companies are involved in the process. Here are some of the details that have been made public on bids for the three casinos:
* Analysts say two companies may have an inside track for being awarded a license because they already have operations at New York-area racinos — horse-racing tracks that have slot-machine casinos attached to them. New York lawmakers authorized slot machines at tracks in 2001. Genting Group’s Resorts World New York City is attached to the Aqueduct Racetrack and opened in 2011 with more than 6,500 slot machines. That’s the same company that operates Resorts World Las Vegas. Resorts World also operates an upstate casino in New York in the Catskills. The Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway is operated by MGM Resorts International and has around 5,000 slot machines and automated tables in a racing environment.
* Las Vegas Sands Corp. is bidding for a license after it entered an agreement to acquire the long-term lease of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island. The Long Island development would include outdoor community spaces, four- and five-star hotel rooms and a live performance venue honoring the legacy of live music at the coliseum. The company said the resort would also feature celebrity chef restaurants, experiential events and venues, and flexible meeting and convention space, including ballrooms. Its casino gaming offering would represent less than 10 percent of the project’s total square footage. There are also plans to have a day spa, swimming pool and health club. Sands has a lengthy track record of developing integrated resorts as the market leader in Macao and in Singapore, where it operates the iconic Marina Bay Sands resort.
* Caesars Entertainment Inc. announced a partnership with New York office landlord SL Green Realty Corp. to open Caesars Palace Times Square in an existing skyscraper. The 54-story tower is owned by SL Green, and the new Caesars Palace would be designed to include a Broadway theater for “The Lion King,” according to a news release. It said the development would bring Caesars’ 50-plus years of “globally-recognized excellence” in entertainment, food and beverage, and gaming “to deliver a best-in-class experience that will be authentic and complementary to the Times Square entertainment district.”
* Wynn Resorts Ltd. is partnering with New York real estate heavyweight Related Companies at its Hudson Yards development in Manhattan. A release issued by Wynn said the property would be a resort, entertainment and gaming destination along the Hudson River, and it would be near the Javits Center, one of New York’s busiest convention centers. Wynn prides itself in providing a quality product and has two resorts on the Strip, three in Macao and one in suburban Boston.
* New York’s Major League Baseball teams are in collaborations for resorts. Mets owner Steve Cohen is looking at building a casino near the team’s CitiField stadium at Willets Point. New York media outlets earlier reported Cohen was in discussions with Sands, but it appears now that he has aligned with the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock International, the recent buyer of The Mirage on the Strip. Meanwhile, New York Yankees affiliate Legends Hospitality is reportedly collaborating with Saratoga Casino and Raceway, operators of a harness-racing track; Thor Equities, a real estate investment firm; and the Chickasaw Nation tribe, whose members operate casinos in Oklahoma, to build a casino at the beachfront boardwalk at Coney Island.
* Vornado Realty Trust is reportedly eyeing the development of a casino at the soon-to-be-demolished Hotel Pennsylvania near Penn Station. A Vornado spokesman told New York media it has no development partnership in place, but analysts have speculated it could team up with Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, which has expressed interest in entering the New York market.
The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, including Dr. Miriam Adelson, majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Las Vegas Sands President and COO Patrick Dumont.