New York moves toward Downstate casino licenses by appointing first siting board members
New York gambling regulators took Monday a step forward toward the proposed casino expansion for the New York City metropolitan area by naming officials to a board set to oversee siting for the projects. The Gaming Commission named former New York City Housing Commissioner Vicki Been, New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Quenia Abreau, and former Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz to the panel.
The New York Gaming Commission unanimously voted to approve the first three members of the Gaming Facility Location Board, which will intervene in the bidding process for the state’s three remaining casino licenses for the downstate region. The group is set to consist of a total of five members, meaning two are yet to be appointed, although no date has been given for when that will occur.
"With capital investment, direct and construction employment, and the driving of incremental tax revenues, these projects will offer the possibility of tangible change to their host locations," said state Gaming Commission Chair Brian O'Dwyer during Monday's meeting, as reported by News 12 Connecticut.
The board is responsible for vetting all of the incoming casino license proposals and recommending which three should go before the commission for final approval. Each license is set to cost at least $500 million, and the board has 90 days to begin formally soliciting proposals from prospective developers.
"It's a regional booster. It is in terms of the economics," said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, according to the cited source. A spokesperson for Empire City Casino said in a statement: “We’re excited about the opportunity to respond to the anticipated Request for Applications (RFA) for the remaining commercial casino licenses and intend to submit a compelling application to secure one of those available licenses for Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts.”
Yonkers’ Empire City is considered one of the favorites to get one of the licenses, along with Resorts World New York City in Queens, given both facilities are already up and running. Earning licenses would allow the racetrack casinos to expand their offerings to full Las Vegas-style gaming, adding live table games.
“A commercial license will allow us to develop Empire City to its full potential, generating thousands of quality jobs and meaningful private economic investment for Westchester and the region,” further noted the Empire City Casino spokesperson.
New York is expanding casino gaming as part of a provision passed earlier this year in the state budget that ended exclusivity clauses in place for upstate casinos. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2013 that allowed for seven full gaming licenses, four upstate and three for the downstate region. The first four have already been handed out, and while the last three would have started next year, the state legislature moved to expedite the process.
Casino developers and gambling interests have long eyed New York City as a major untapped market, and the bidding process is set to attract plenty of competition. Las Vegas heavyweight Wynn Resorts partnered with developer Related Companies last month on a bid for a casino in Hudson Yards, in Manhattan. Other gaming giants such as Hard Rock and Sands have been identified as interested in pursuing the NY City opportunity, but no deals have been announced.
The casino plans also call for a Community Advisory Board to review proposals to ensure they have local support, which will be made up of people appointed by the governor, county executive or mayor, local state legislators, and community lawmakers. The board will be tasked to approve any proposals before they move to the location board, which will then pass them to commissioners. The Gaming Facility Location Board is expected to begin accepting RFAs in early 2023.