Andrew Yang Floats New York City Casino Idea, Plan Faces Steep Odds at Proposed Site

Posted on: January 20, 2021, 09:16h. 

Last updated on: January 20, 2021, 10:56h.

Andrew Yang believes a casino on Governors Island in New York Harbor would be an important contributor to the city’s post-pandemic economic recovery. But the idea faces long odds of moving beyond the concept phase.

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New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, seen here. He wants to put a casino on Governors Island. (Image: New York Daily News)

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate turned New York City mayoral aspirant sees a gaming a venue on the 172-acre island as a way to not only replenish the city’s finances, but also as an avenue for luring more tourists to the five boroughs.

That casino would generate so much money it would be bananas,” said Yang in an interview on the radio program ‘The Breakfast Club.’

Currently, the roster of traditional gaming properties in or around the largest US city by population is confined to Resorts World Casino New York City, which is next to Aqueduct racetrack in Queens near John F. Kennedy International Airport, and MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers.

Uphill Battle

Much of the land on Governors Island isn’t currently used by commercial buildings. It instead operates as a park. Located a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, the island has a national monument and is home to some small businesses and dining options.

Multiple factors make Yang’s casino proposal a murky bet.

First, the deed restriction reached in 2003 between the city and the federal government for the land explicitly forbids casino development, reports Politico. Second, there are plans in the works to develop commercial, educational and hospitality offerings on Governors Island that center around climate change and sustainability.

However, even those ideas are encountering resistance among some New Yorkers who say the land should be left as it is because it offers a rare commodity in the city: Open green spaces.

Previous proposals for Governors Island, including a hotel and water park, college campus, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s idea to turn part of the idea into a technology hub, have all fallen by the wayside.

For his part, Yang views a gaming property as a way of defraying the costs of his basic income program. If elected, he’d push for $1 billion to be moved to 500,000 of the poorest New Yorkers.

Operators Would Be Chomping at the Bit

Albany regulates development of gaming properties in the Empire State.

While the industry is mostly clustered in the upstate region, removed from the population center of the New York metro area, some policymakers are warm to the idea of more downstate casinos. That idea could gain more momentum as the fourth-largest state grapples with a precarious fiscal position due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If the state and city approve an integrated resort, particularly one of a high-end variety, it’s likely the bidding process will draw the industry’s biggest names.

For example, Las Vegas Sands has long been keen on developing a New York City casino. If Yang can maneuver through a crowded primary field of close to a dozen Democrats and ultimately win election, he may able to execute the casino idea at some point, though Governors Island is unlikely to be the location.

The mayoral primaries are June 22, followed by the general election on Nov. 2. Current Mayor de Blasio cannot seek a third term because of term limits.