Is a Staten Island casino in our future? BP Fossella proposes NY Wheel site
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Borough President Vito Fossella wants the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) and interested developers to “roll the dice” and consider building a casino on Staten Island.
Fossella held a press conference on Monday to propose Staten Island be among locations in consideration for one of the three Class III licenses up for grabs for full casinos in New York’s downstate region.
“Staten Island is one of the few places that doesn’t have any type of gambling in the downstate area and we just think that this is one of those areas that should be considered a destination point,” the borough president said.
Fossella hosted the press conference at the Empire Outlets with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop and overlooking the site of the failed New York Wheel project where he envisions a thriving casino.
“Just envision a casino here, perhaps a hotel in the likes of the Mohegan Sun where people can come on a day like today and enjoy the views, enjoy the vistas. Just enjoy what’s behind us,” he said.
“And if you compare it to other places around the city, you have casinos and racetracks. But does it offer this type of view and this these types of amenities? And frankly, the answer is ‘no,’” Fossella added. “We would love for folks, casino operators who are evaluating and doing their due diligence, to come and take a visit.”
The borough president admitted that he had not discussed his idea with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which owns the New York Wheel site, nor the Gaming Commission but instead his announcement would serve to open these conversations.
The initial N.Y. Wheel project, which was intended to be the world’s tallest observation wheel, reached its demise on Oct. 23, 2018 when its principals announced they would not follow through with the construction of the 630-foot-high tourist attraction, whose cost had snowballed from an original estimate of $250 million to close to $1 billion.
Before the project was abandoned by its major investors, about $200 million was invested to build infrastructure on the site, including the Wheel’s giant pedestals and a largely-complete terminal building and parking garage.
CanAm Enterprises, which is a sponsor of EB-5 regional center projects and has been involved with the Wheel project since its inception, has been working since 2019 with consultants and the state and city – including NYCEDC – to upstart a smaller wheel.
As of last year, CanAm was moving forward with the smaller Wheel, which was said to be more feasible and was expected to take about three-and-a-half years to complete. The company did not immediately respond to request for comment on Monday.
Fossella recalled his recent tour of the Wheel site with City Councilwoman Kamillah Hanks and the NYCEDC and being told “the plan is to raise more money to build a wheel that’s about one-third the size of the original one proposed.”
The borough president suggested that the site could have both a casino and the small wheel.
“Why not look at that site through a different lens. And frankly, who knows, maybe we can have a combination of a casino and a ferris wheel too as a tourist attraction as they have in places like Las Vegas.”
The NYCEDC did not respond to request for comment by the time of publishing.
SCORING LICENSES FOR NYC CASINOS
Earlier this year, New York State approved the NYSGC to issue three Class III licenses to create three full-service – including poker and other table games, slot machines and retail sports betting – casinos in the downstate region.
The Gaming Facility Location Board, upon being appointed by the commission, will issue ra equest for applications (RFAs) for interested parties.
Mayor Eric Adams has expressed hopes of New York City scoring at least two of the three licenses.
There has been buzz during the past few months over prospective locations for the new casinos, such as the Water Club in Kips Bay, Times Square, on top of Saks Fifth Avenue in midtown and nearby Citi Field in Queens.
Some city lawmakers believe MGM’s Empire City Casino and Yonkers and Genting-owned Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct in Queens could be at the top of the list for two of the licenses.
Given the opportunity to become full casinos, these well established Class II casinos – currently limited to electronic gaming – wouldn’t need to build from the ground up; converting could be as simple as adding slot machines and tables for games.
To have a horse in this race, Staten Island would need a major developer to bet on it.
Gambling industry giants, such as Las Vegas Sands and Bally’s have expressed interest in buying into what Politico describes as “the largest untapped casino market” in the U.S.
Most recently, Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards and Las Vegas gambling giant Wynn announced their planned partnership to bid on a casino in Midtown.
The casino would be built on the still undeveloped western portion of Hudson Yards, next to the Javits Center.
All license applicants will have to provide compelling cases with their bids hitting criteria such as:
- Providing the highest number of quality jobs in the gaming facility;
- Offering a reasonable and feasible construction schedule to full completion/
- Working in partnership with local government and businesses in vicinity of selected locations, including hotels, restaurants, event venues;
- Realizing maximum capital investment and maximizing revenue received by state and localities;
- Utilizing sustainable development practices;
- Implementing well-rounded workforce development plan with transparent career paths, promotion opportunities and training programs.