Gambling On Citi Field: Mets Owners Aim To Open A New York Casino

Posted on: February 8, 2013, 11:57h. 

Last updated on: February 8, 2013, 12:01h.

Just as New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators hash out discussions over whether or not to legalize state-sanctioned casinos in the Empire State, it appears that the New York Mets may soon have a casino neighbor of their own, albeit an Indian-run one.  According to recent stories in The New York Post, Mets owners Fred Wilpo and Saul Katz are exploring their options regarding building a 500-room, full-service hotel/casino complex directly adjacent to Mets’ Citi Field park location; a bold move that could appeal to gamblers and non-gamblers alike with slots, table games, and an additional 1.8 million square feet of luxury amenities and retail space.

Wilpo and Katz have inked a deal with the Southampton, Long Island-based Shinnecock Indian Nation to operate the New York casino when (and if) it becomes a reality.  Trying to sweeten the deal for New York City, the ownership group is reportedly offering a $100 million signing bonus to the city for the 62-acre Queens-based site they have earmarked for the project, stating that the Willets Point locale will be used to attract millions of visitors from the New York area, as well as worldwide.

Fueling the project will be the hope of recouping some of the  multimillion dollar losses the Mets’ incurred to the notorious Bernie Madoff’s disastrous Ponzi schemes several years ago. An added motivation will be an attempt to lure away New York Yankees’ die-hard fans to become Mets’ aficionados with the casino endeavor.

While tempting to both the city and Mets  fans, there will be quite a few hurdles to pass before anything can get off the ground with the project.  MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will have to okay the deal first, raising the always-sticky co-habitation issue of gambling and sports, although sports betting would not be offered in the proposed New York casino.

New York State currently offers more slot machines than Atlantic City, or any other Northeastern or Midwestern state.  State legislators and Gov. Cuomo have been hammering out a new state-sanctioned land gambling measure, Program Bill 26, that would expand legalized gaming beyond existing tribal houses. All of the state’s discussions have looked towards building the initial three projects outside of the city, however, with the Catskills and other upstate areas mentioned as the front-running contenders if the bill pushes through the State House this year.