Long Island Casino Detractors Want Environmental Review Stopped

Posted on: January 10, 2024, 06:11h. 

Last updated on: January 11, 2024, 11:27h.

Groups opposing Las Vegas Sands’ efforts to build a casino hotel at the site of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. want the nearby town of Hempstead to cease an environmental review that could smooth the way for the project.

Sands Long Island
Nassau Coliseum. The town of Hempstead, N.Y. wants to proceed with an environmental review for a casino project. But opponents are attempting to halt the review. (Image: LongIsland.com)

“Say NO to the Casino,” which has opposed the gaming project from the start, believes the environmental review should be halted. That’s because the transfer of the Coliseum lease to Sands from Nassau County was blocked last month by a New York appeals court. That legal action was brought by Hofstra University, another outspoken detractor of the casino plan.

In November, 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. That court’s appellate division later put that decision on hold. The college brought the suit in April.

“Say NO to the Casino” wants Hempstead to cancel a pair of public comment sessions scheduled for Thursday, January 18 at Long Island Marriott in Uniondale. The request is on the basis that the review shouldn’t move forward following last month’s appellate court decision.

Environmental Review Could Be Vital

Much of Hofstra’s argument against lease transfer centered on the notion that Nassau County officials inked the deal with Sands in a backroom fashion. That’s while not allowing ordinary citizens to comment on the matter.

Hempstead’s January 18 sessions clearly take a different approach, signaling the casino stakeholders don’t want to provide additional fodder for opponents.

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.

Hempstead believes the lease transfer to Sands is valid, and there’s documentation to support that claim, potentially signaling the town has legal standing with which to proceed with the environmental study. Town officials refute claims that the lease transfer was intentionally opaque or purposefully hidden from residents.

Clock Ticking on Long Island Casino

Potentially looming large for Sands’ efforts to win one of the three downstate casino permits are two factors that are linked. New York’s high courts are taking years to hear environmental cases, and it’s possible that regulators there could award the trio of casino licenses in the second half of this year.

Some industry observers believe that time line is ambitious. But if it proves accurate, it could be problematic for Sands and Nassau County, because New York regulators may not be keen on the idea of awarding a license to an operator with pending litigation in state courts. Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a longtime supporter of the casino plan, said delays could be costly.

“Delay is not an option, since the stakes are high and potential loss of billions of dollars in construction and thousands of jobs is not an option,” he said in a statement provided to Newsday.