Hofstra Notches Legal Win in Nassau County Casino Suit

Posted on: December 14, 2023, 01:13h. 

Last updated on: December 15, 2023, 09:03h.

Hofstra University has secured a legal victory in blocking Nassau County from transferring the lease on Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Las Vegas Sands.

Hofstra University Nassau Coliseum Sands casino
The Nassau Coliseum. Hofstra University scored a legal win in its effort to block the county from transferring the Coliseum’s lease to Las Vegas Sands (Image: Newsday)

A New York appeals court handed down the ruling late Wednesday, potentially establishing a hurdle to the gaming company’s efforts to secure a downstate casino permit and build a $4 billion integrated resort at the Coliseum site.

We are pleased that the courts continue to uphold the public’s rights to transparency and participation in these important decisions regarding the future use of the Nassau Hub,” Adam Schuman, an attorney for Hofstra, said in a statement released Thursday.

Last month, the New York State Supreme Court voided the lease transfer, siding with Hoftstra’s claims that the deal violated the state’s open meeting laws. But that court’s appellate division later put that decision on hold. The college brought the suit in April.

Ruling Could Hinder Environmental Review

Environmental reviews are essential to any new large-scale gaming project. In the case of Nassau County, the town of Hempstead recently announced it will lead the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for the casino project.

The appeals court’s ruling could be a roadblock to Sands’ efforts to alter the zoning regulations for the land on which it’d like to build a casino hotel. Following the initial ruling in Hofstra’s favor, Hempstead halted efforts to take the lead in the State Environmental Quality Review Act procedure. That could be a sign the review may not be able to proceed because of Wednesday’s decision.

At this point, the next steps for the county aren’t clear. Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin told Newsday the town is reviewing the latest court ruling. It is not yet known what the effects of the decision will be on the environmental review process.

A lengthy legal battle may prevent the county and the gaming company from being prepared to credibly bid for one of the three downstate casino licenses New York regulators could award next year.

How a Nassau County Casino Could Still Happen

While the appeals court’s ruling is a thorn in the side of Sands and Nassau County casino backers, it’s not necessarily a death knell. Further litigation could be avoided by holding public hearings on the casino issue, which could pave the way for the environmental review to proceed.

Hempstead has already pledged to hold two public comment sessions on January 18. It’s possible the county could leverage those hearings and a more extensive public comment period to appease the courts. But that’s not a guarantee.

Time is also of the essence. New York’s higher courts are facing severe backlogs in environmental cases, some of which are taking years to be heard.