Court Voids Nassau Coliseum Lease Transfer for Sands New York Casino Plan
Posted on: November 10, 2023, 04:57h.
Last updated on: November 14, 2023, 09:16h.
A New York State Supreme Court justice Thursday annulled a previously agreed to lease transfer of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY — the site where Las Vegas Sands is looking to construct a $4 billion casino hotel.
In May, the Republican-controlled Nassau County legislators voted 17-1 in favor of granting Sands a 99-year lease to develop county-owned land on the Nassau Hub site. Sands revealed in January that its quest for a New York City-area gaming license would be centered on Nassau County. This year, Sands has paid $241 million to the former leaseholder, Nassau Live Center LLC, and $54 million to the county as the lease accord requires.
Sands’ effort to procure one of the three yet-to-be-awarded New York City-area casino permits is widely supported by Nassau County politicians of both parties, and the plan is mostly favored by locals. Hofstra University is a vocal critic of the proposal.
In April, the university near the Coliseum sued Nassau County, alleging county officials held talks on the Sands casino without informing the public of those discussions. If true, that violates New York’s open meeting laws.
Hofstra has demonstrated that the failure to post the resolution was not merely technical, but rather was ‘an attempt to avoid public scrutiny’ of the proposed lease transfer,” wrote Justice Sarika Kapoor in her decision.
Sands said the ruling doesn’t affect its New York plans nor believes the decision will impact its odds of winning a gaming permit in the state.
Nassau County Has Some Work to Do
In her ruling, Kapoor asserted that Nassau County focused more on the technicalities of the Coliseum lease transfer to Sands and less on allowing public comment on the issue and how a gaming venue could affect nearby communities.
Sands has touted the job-creating potential of the proposed gaming venue and its ability to bolster receipts for Nassau County and the state. The company has also highlighted plans to lure convention business to the hotel, entertainment and restaurants — traits that diminish the argument that it would be a gaming-centric establishment.
However, the Say NO to the Casino Civic Association, a group opposing the Nassau County casino effort, argued that not only have locals not heard their voices, but a gaming venue could increase crime, environmental harm and traffic. The group is calling for environmental and traffic impact studies to be conducted following the Supreme Court ruling.
In her decision, Kapoor noted because the county “engaged in improper segmentation by not considering the future development planned by Sands, the Court finds that the Nassau County Legislature did not take the requisite ‘hard look’ at the relevant areas of environmental concern raised by the lease transfer…”
A traffic study has yet to be conducted, and Sands chose to focus its New York efforts on Long Island to avoid contributing to motor vehicle congestion in Manhattan. In August, Sands submitted a land-use application to Hempstead — one of the towns that could be affected by the casino hotel. That town is conducting an environmental impact review as required by state law.
Ruling Adds to Already Chaotic New York Casino Process
In 2022, New York lawmakers approved three downstate casinos — a decision that has lured some of the industry’s biggest names to the fourth-largest state to try their luck. Since then, the process has become increasingly hectic.
It was originally expected that regulators there would decide on the three winning bidders in 2024, but some analysts believe that decision will be pushed off to 2025. Additionally, bids by MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Genting’s Resorts World New York in Queens could be hampered by former executive Scott Sibella’s alleged role in an illegal sports betting ring.
Thursday’s court ruling on the Nassau County lease transfer adds to the chaos. The Say NO to Casino Civic Association views the decision as a warning shot for other New York casino efforts.
“New York State officials should take note of this ruling by Judge Kapoor when making decisions on awarding the gambling licenses, as it highlights (Nassau) County Executive (Bruce) Blakeman’s contempt for his own constituents, and his blatant disregard for federal, state, and even county laws, as well as the right of every Nassau County resident to understand the wide-ranging, long-term impacts that this massive project will have on our way of life,” according to the group.
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