Queens Casino Proposal on Life Support as Ramos Balks at Gaming Venue

Posted on: May 28, 2024, 11:59h. 

Last updated on: May 28, 2024, 01:21h.

Efforts by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International to bring a casino hotel to the area near Citi Field may be on life support after State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) announced Tuesday that she won’t support legislation to change the parkland designation of Willets Point to allow a gaming venue.

Queens casino
State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). She won’t support the parkland redesignation of Willets Point for a casino. (Image: Spectrum News)

Acknowledging that she heard the voices of local business leaders and residents who opposed and supported the $8 billion Metropolitan Park plan floated by Cohen, Ramos said that it’s clear locals want more green space and recreation areas, but they shouldn’t have to embrace a casino to get those amenities. However, she did propose a bill that would strip Willets Point of its parkland designation so Cohen and Hard Rock could build a convention center and hotel there.

I have drafted an alternative alienation bill that strikes a balance and would Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock to build a convention center and hotel, and more than double the proposed open green space,” said Ramos in a statement. “The parcel in question is in strategic proximity to LaGuardia Airport, and allows for visitors and tourists to feed into our vibrant food scene while addressing the consequence of climate change in the area. Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock would still make a profit, albeit less.”

Cohen had been actively lobbying New York politicians and contributing to key Democrats, including Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) to transform Willets Point into an entertainment destination with a gaming venue.

Without Casino, Queens Project Likely Dead

It remains to be seen if Cohen and Hard Rock will move forward with Metropolitan Park with a casino out of the question. The odds are long that will happen.

Throughout the New York City-area casino bidding process, some contenders have cautioned the city that they don’t have backup plans and should they not be granted gaming licenses, they’re unlikely to develop their proposed casino sites because, without gaming venues, such development wouldn’t be economical.

That’s almost assuredly true of Willets Point, which without the benefit of an integrated resort, could remain no more than a parking lot for decades to come.

That is to say that while Ramos trying to find a balancing act between no development of Willets Point while eschewing a gaming venue is admirable, and the introduction of Senate Bill S9747 (SB S9747) is well-intentioned, that might not be enough to save the area from another lengthy run of going untapped.

Potential Beneficiaries of Cohen, Hard Rock Misfortune

Where there are losers, there are winners, and should Cohen and Hard Rock declare that Metropolitan Park is dead without a casino, that would be to the liking of the other downstate casino bidders.

Assuming Cohen and Hard Rock are out of the picture, Genting, which runs Resorts World New York in Queens might benefit because it removes any reservations regulators might have about allowing two integrated resorts in the same borough.

Likewise, Las Vegas Sands could be a beneficiary of the death of Metropolitan Park because there has been speculation, albeit unconfirmed, that affiliates of Hofstra University may have attempted to help Hard Rock thwart Sands’ plans for a casino hotel at Nassau Hub in Uniondale.