Lawmakers pushing for local control of NYC casino sites

Lawmakers pushing for local control of NYC casino sites
Wild Casino

State lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul appear likely to roll the dice on casinos in the New York City area, but only if local officials get significant say over where they are located, according to key legislators.

Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly have signaled they are open to beginning the approval process for the state’s three remaining casino licenses this year, which Hochul first proposed in January as part of her state budget plan.

But lawmakers have made clear they want to see some semblance of local control over the casino sites, perhaps by creating an oversight panel consisting of the affected borough presidents or county executives, council members and representatives from the local community board, according to Assemblymember Gary Pretlow, a Mount Vernon Democrat who chairs the chamber’s gaming committee.

Pretlow said his fellow Assembly Democrats are “insisting that we have local control.”

“We want to make sure that a casino isn’t located in a neighborhood where people who represent that area – whether it’s the community board members, borough presidents, city council members, whomever – don’t want it there,” Pretlow said. “If nobody wants it there, then we’re not going to force it on them because someone’s offering $10 billion to build a casino.”

Sen. Joseph Addabbo, the Queens Democrat who chairs the Senate’s gaming committee, said lawmakers “all agree, for the most part, that there should be some element of local control.”

Negotiations are now focusing on exactly what form that should take.

“Does it look like a council built up of elected officials and community people? What does it look like?” Addabbo said in an interview. “And I think that's where we're at at this point.”

The location of a prospective New York City casino has the potential to draw significant protest, particularly if casino operators target Manhattan or Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Genting Group, the Malaysian gambling giant, is hoping to attract a full-scale license for its existing Resorts World racetrack casino at Aqueduct in Queens, while MGM Resorts’s Empire City Casino is seeking the same for Yonkers Raceway just north of the city.

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams said he would support two casinos in the city, depending on what casino developers are willing to propose.

“We don't want just a gambling casino,” he said at a news conference. “We want to know how it impacts the overall city and how we all benefit from it.”

The casino negotiations are wrapped up in broader talks over Hochul’s $216 billion budget proposal.

It’s crunch time at the Capitol. A final spending plan is due before the state’s fiscal year begins Friday, though lawmakers appeared increasingly resigned Wednesday to the probability that it will be late.