Las Vegas Sands lease gets OK from Nassau Planning Commission

Las Vegas Sands lease gets OK from Nassau Planning Commission
Wild Casino

Nassau County's Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously agreed to transfer the county's Coliseum lease to Las Vegas Sands, which has proposed a $4 billion casino-resort on the property.

The lease agreement, announced by County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Sands executives on Wednesday, now moves to county legislative committees and the full legislature for consideration in May. 

Sands, one of a dozen companies vying for a state gaming license this year, has proposed a Vegas-style casino with a hotel, ballrooms and conference spaces, a live entertainment venue, restaurants, a health club and spa on the 72-acre property in Uniondale. Gaining control of the county-owned site is critical to the project.  

The 8-0 vote transfers the rights to the property to Sands from Nick Mastroianni II, the Florida-based financier of the Coliseum's 2018 renovation. Planning commission chairman Leonard H. Shapiro recused himself, citing a conflict of interest. 

Jeffrey H. Greefield, planning commission vice chairman, said the commission "only makes recommendations." He said it had received a draft of the proposed lease.

"And those recommendations are not in any way binding on the legislature. Anyone who would like to comment further on the matter will have an opportunity to make a public comment at a future date when this item is heard and on the agenda of the Nassau County Legislature," Greenfield said.   

No members of the public attended the meeting to give their opinions; commissioners voted March 2 to close the public comment period. 

Commissioners said traffic and zoning discussions related to the development would be held within the Town of Hempstead. 

A copy of the lease obtained by Newsday on Thursday confirms Sands is legally bound to putting a development on the property, regardless of whether the company is awarded a state gaming license. 

The 99-year lease requires Sands to pay the county $54 million within 60 days of legislative approval, with a estimated total annual revenue of $96.3 million if a casino is built and $7.9 annually if there is no casino. 

Sands plans a mixed-use development with a luxury hotel, entertainment center and housing if it fails to secure a gaming license.

The lease is expected to be filed with the county clerk's office Friday, according to Blakeman administration officials. 

It is expected to be on the agenda of the county legislature's Rules Committee meeting on May 8, but all legislators will be invited to participate, according to Mary Studdert, spokesperson for the legislature's Majority Republican caucus. 

If approved, the lease would advance to the 19-member legislature, where Republicans hold a 12-7 majority. 

The lease transfer is one of several steps required of Sands before developing a casino. Zoning permits and approval from a local community panel and a state site selection committee are required, along with a state gaming license.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, located near the Coliseum and one of the most vocal opponents of the casino, filed a lawsuit April 18 against the planning commission, alleging violations of the state's open meetings law and requesting commissioners void the March 2 meeting. 

Hofstra officials said Wednesday they are looking forward to "a proper public hearing." They declined to comment Thursday.

What happens next

Sands’ lease needs approval from the Nassau County Legislature and the following committees:

Planning Commission, approved April 27

Rules and Finance Committees, meet May 8

Nassau County Legislature, meets May 22

Sands also needs to clear these hurdles, with dates to be determined:

Local five-member community advisory committee

Town of Hempstead zoning board

State site selection panel

State gaming license

Candice Ferrette covers Nassau County government and politics on Long Island. She has been a reporter at Newsday since 2011.