Bally’s Bronx Casino Bid Faces Parkland Quagmire

Posted on: May 30, 2024, 05:37h. 

Last updated on: May 31, 2024, 09:15h.

In what could prove to be a sequel to a scenario that played out in Queens, an effort to position a Bronx golf course for a New York City casino license could be stymied by a lack of political support to change the course’s parkland designation.

Bally's Bus
Bally’s Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx, NY. Policymakers representing the area aren’t actively pursuing legislation to alter the parkland designation, which could hinder casino plans. (Image: Golf Digest)

Last year, Bally’s acquired the lease rights to the golf course formerly known as Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx with hopes of bringing a casino hotel to the site. Because the property in question is currently designated as parkland, that classification must be removed via legislation — something that appears increasingly unlikely to happen over the near term.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (D-The Bronx) represents the district that includes Ferry Point and he said he’s not proposing a bill to remove the parkland designation.

I am certainly listening to the thoughts and concerns of my constituents before making a decision here to support or oppose this proposal,” Benedetto said in a written statement to The City. “I have not introduced any legislation to alienate parkland.”

Hoping to jumpstart the parkland alienation conversation, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) on Tuesday introduced a bill that calls for “parkland in Ferry Point Park” to be altered to use for a “gaming facility.” If that legislation is signed into law, Bally’s would have 15 years to build a casino hotel on the Bronx land and, if that doesn’t happen, the parkland classification would be restored.

Bronx Casino Effort Could Go Way of Queens Bid

Parkland designation laws in New York represent high barriers to entry for gaming companies, and with that factor in mind, Bally’s Bronx efforts could take on a similar look to what recently happened in Queens.

Earlier this week, State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) said she won’t support parkland alienation legislation for Willets Point, essentially putting a plan by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International to bring a casino hotel to the borough on life support. Without legislative support to remove parkland classifications, developers and gaming companies would likely be prohibited from bidding for the three downstate casino licenses.

Should support for parkland alienation at Ferry Point be denied, Bally’s has some options, but they aren’t appealing. The regional casino operator could find a way to use land at Ferry Point that isn’t subject to the parkland label or it could find another site.

Given the weakness of Bally’s balance sheet and its financial commitments in Chicago, which are far from being met, some investors have encouraged the company to scrap its pursuit of a New York license to conserve cash.

Time Not on Side of Bronx Casino Legislation

In addition to Benedetto not rushing to introduce a parkland alienation bill, State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez (D) said such legislation isn’t on her radar, and that there are higher legislative priorities at the moment.

Add to that, unless Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) calls a special session, New York policymakers have until June 6 to introduce new bills, meaning time isn’t on the side of any effort to remove Ferry Point’s parkland classification.

Assuming Bally’s and Cohen/Hard Rock depart from the downstate casino competition, that would pare the field to nine contenders, several of which aren’t dealing with land use issues.