New York Casino Selection Process Likely to Drag Well Into 2025

Posted on: March 25, 2024, 08:54h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2024, 11:25h.

Less than three months into 2024, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that no decisions on downstate casino licenses in New York will be made this year.

Times Square in New York City is a potential site for a casino. It could be late 2025 before New York awards casino licenses. (Image: CNN)

New York Gaming Commission (NYGC) Executive Director Robert Williams noted Monday that it’s not feasible to open a 30-day window in which gaming companies can make official applications to the state for the three downstate casino licenses. That’s because New York City needs to alter various zoning laws so that at least one gaming venue could be in the five boroughs. That process could take much of this year, implying no decisions on winning bidders will be made until late 2025.

Last November, Mayor Eric Adams (D-NY) proposed a citywide zoning text amendment that would allow gaming venues in the five boroughs. But there are another 10 steps to be cleared before that proposal could go into effect.

Staff believes the timeline accommodates the existing statutory requirements … and allows sufficient time for local zoning approvals, which will enable the best, most comprehensive plans for commercial casino development,” Williams told NYGC board members.

Entering this year, it was hoped that the state could open the 30-day bidding window before July. But that now appears unlikely.

No Surprise on 2025 Timeline

Lobbyists and gaming industry observers were optimistic that there would be movement on awarding the New York casino licenses at some point this year. But other experts cautioned it was likely a 2025 issue, citing bureaucratic delays, among other issues.

Additionally, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY) budget for the current fiscal year didn’t include receipts for casino applications and licensing fees, indicating Albany wasn’t banking on decisions on that front occurring this year. Williams said the state doesn’t expect those revenue generators before the 2025-26 fiscal year.

Another issue that could be delaying opening the bidding window is that some gaming companies are waiting on legislators to alter parkland designations at their pitched casino sites. That’s applicable to Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International in Queens, as well as to Bally’s in the Bronx.

Additionally, Las Vegas Sands’ effort to build a casino resort in Nassau County is being hindered by litigation brought by opposition groups, including Hofstra University. Sands’ proposal has been widely viewed as one of the more viable for a New York casino license.

Five Boroughs Matter

As things stand today, arguably only MGM Resorts International with Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York in Queens would be ready to participate in a bidding process that starts over the near term. The same might be true of Sands if it can put the aforementioned litigation behind it.

Of those three bids, only Resorts World New York in Queens is in one of the five boroughs, and policymakers in  Albany and the city might want to ensure there’s a level playing field for gaming companies evaluating Manhattan. That’s because that could mean more tax revenue for the state.

Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts, among others, will pitch Manhattan casino hotels when the bidding process starts.