Mets owner Steve Cohen looking to open NYC casino

New York Post
Mets owner Steve Cohen looking to open NYC casino
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He’s swinging for the fences — and hoping for a jackpot.

While his Mets look to shore up their ranks ahead of the trade deadline, owner Steve Cohen is at the same time angling to secure one of the three downstate commercial casino licenses, dispatching close associates to cozy up to Mayor Eric Adams and Queens officials.

Sources told The Post that Cohen is ramping up efforts to partner with a casino operator and eyeing redevelopment prospects around Citi Field in Willets Point.

He also started vetting several casino owners for his license push over the last several weeks, working with investment bank Union Gaming to choose a partner. 

Cohen is believed to favor Hard Rock – also a major donor to Gov. Kathy Hochul – a source close to the process said. He was also recently speaking to Sands Hotel and Casino, sources said. 

When Cohen bought the Mets in 2020 he talked to Sands about a potential casino project down the road, The Post reported at the time.

Real estate developers and gaming operators are currently rolling the dice for the right to open local open casinos.

There’s already two slot parlors up and running at horse-race tracks that will apply for a full license — Resorts World/Genting at Aqueduct in Queens and the Empire City/MGM at Yonkers in Westchester County. Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan and Times Square are also locations being eyed.

“Cohen has a big operation,” said a casino industry source, adding that the Mets owner is heavily relying on his in-house talent on the casino discussions. 

Cohen is also CEO of Point72 Asset Management, a Connecticut-based billion-dollar hedge fund. 

Michael Sullivan – Point72’s chief of staff and head of external affairs – is listed on the New York State Gaming Commission’s website as the principal lobbyist for New Green Willets, LLC, which shares the same address as Point72. 

The source said “Sully” is well known as one of Cohen’s most trusted associates.

Multiple sources spotted Sullivan palling around with Adams at the private nightclub Zero Bond last Thursday during a reception for the 2024 Democratic National Convention host committee. 

“He was going around telling everyone that he was the owner of the New York Mets,” said one source of Sullivan. “He was constantly bringing different people to meet the mayor.”

City records show NGW has spent nearly $99,000 on lobbying City Hall and City Council officials between Jan. 1 and July 15. 

Records list the names of Cohen, Sullivan and Point72’s general counsel Vincent Tortorella as lobbyist employees of NGW.

The purpose of the meetings were to push for the downstate legal casino licenses in the state budget, discuss “potential economic development, housing and mass transportation development at the Willets Point neighborhood of Queens, NY” and lift the controversial private business vaccine mandate for athletes, according to the filings. 

He’s touching all the political bases by meeting with elected officials.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a Democrat, said Cohen requested a meeting with him earlier this year, which he described as a preliminary discussion about what to do with the property they own in Willets Point around Citi Field.

He said Sullivan was there, as well as Mets general manager Billy Eppler.

“They asked, “what are your thoughts if there was a casino?” Richards recalled to The Post in a phone interview. They also discussed transportation options, housing and entertainment plans in the area.

Richards said Queens communities, particularly those around Willets Point, are still hurting post-pandemic and told the execs: “I want to make sure there is investment and job development.”

Sullivan also attended meetings on June 27 and July 7 with Democratic state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who currently represents the district including Citi Field and Willets Point, and who this week took on AOC, calling radical the congresswoman “absent” from her constituents. 

“He expressed interest in knowing what the community thinks about developing around Citi Field and acknowledged I would have to approve of any changes in land use,” Ramos told The Post.

She said she hasn’t seen any plans for a casino, but if proposed she will likely be required to sign off on legislation.

It’s important for Cohen and his team to meet with elected officials if he wants to win approval to build a casino. 

The state Gaming Commission will appoint individuals to a casino siting board by October 4th, per state law. After that, a 90-day period will open up to review submitted bids. 

Gaming interests will have to win two-thirds approval of a six-member community advisory board for the area where a casino plan is proposed.

Representatives are slated to include appointees from the borough president, local state senator and assembly member and City Council member, as well as the governor and mayor.

Unless state-owned property, the casino plans also would have to be approved according to the city’s lengthy land-use review procedure that needs the blessing of the City Council – and potentially Albany.

Cohen started cozying up to Adams during his successful campaign for mayor. He donated millions to a pro-Adams super PAC last year. He and his wife Alexandra have also donated thousands to Hochul, per state board of elections filings.

Reps for Cohen and Sullivan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.