Saratoga Casino, Yankees owners, Cowboys, Chickasaw tribe NYC casino license

Times Union
Saratoga Casino, Yankees owners, Cowboys, Chickasaw tribe NYC casino license
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Casino and Raceway is joining forces with a real estate investment group, a Native American tribe, and an affiliate of the Yankees baseball team to pursue a license to open what, if awarded, would be one of three full-service casinos in the New York City area in coming years.

“We haven’t put anything formally into anybody at this point but we expect that our group will do so,” James Featherstonhaugh said, referring to applications for a license. 

Feathersonhaugh is a lobbyist and minority owner of Saratoga Casino, which is a “racino,” or video lottery terminal parlor with an adjacent harness racing track.

The group is among a growing number of competitors vying for the three licenses in or around the city. 

Their concept is to build a full-service Las Vegas-style casino at Coney Island, the famed beachfront boardwalk and entertainment district in Brooklyn.

Other potential bidders are looking to build casinos in Times Square and at Willets Point in Queens as well as Staten Island and the Hudson Yards section of Manhattan. 

The Saratoga Casino group includes Thor Equities, a real estate investment firm; the Chickasaw Nation, whose members operate casinos in Oklahoma; and Legends Hospitality, which is a joint venture between owners of the New York Yankees baseball team and Dallas Cowboys.

The downstate casino competition has been a long time coming.

When former Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a plan to open four upstate casinos almost a decade ago the plan banned facilities downstate until 2023, in order to give those in the lesser-populated upstate regions a chance to become established.

Now the move to grant licenses for three casinos is starting.

The state Gaming Commission could start awarding licenses in 2023 but there is still much work to be done.

The Gaming Commission recently appointed a three-member Gaming Facility Location Board which will oversee the competition for licenses.

Additionally, each location downstate will have its own community advisory board with input into the process, which is different from how the upstate locations were selected.

The actual application process begins on Jan. 6.

In addition to the Saratoga  New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is looking at building a casino near the Mets’ CitiField in Willets Point. That’s created fodder for tabloid newspaper stories about a “subway series” competition between the two baseball teams vying for a New York City casino.

Additionally, a number of other potential bidders last year responded to an initial request for information that the Gaming Commission issued in order to gauge interest in the licensing process.

Among the respondents then were Rush Street Gaming, which operates Schenectady’s Rivers Casino as well as Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Genting, Bally’s, and Hard Rock Café.

Genting operates a racino in Queens and they would reconfigure that facility as a casino.

 MGM’s Empire City Casino racino in Yonkers has a similar proposal.

Featherstonhaugh said his group hasn’t settled on a name for their project yet, but they want to build a resort-style operation that would include more than casino gambling.

Saratoga Casino had wanted to build an upstate casino but they were not among the winning bidders in that competition.

They recently purchased a casino in Natchez, Mississippi and they own gambling centers in Colorado.

For now, Featherstonhaugh said they are focusing on their New York City efforts rather than buying other properties.

“The proposal in New York,” he said, “Is an all-consuming matter for us at this time.” 518 454 5758 @RickKarlinTU