Lobbyists, Casinos, Ready to Fight for New York City Location

Lobbyists, Casinos, Ready to Fight for New York City Location a woman plays slots with a faceshield on a casino floor. A woman wearing a face shield gambles at Ocean Casino after it reopened on July 3, 2020 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Mark Makela/Getty Images

By Eric Mack | Sunday, 06 February 2022 08:45 AM

While it will take years to get going, there is a looming race for a casino in New York City, with Times Square, Citi Field, and Hudson Yards as potential prime locations for the world's largest untapped casino market.

State budget negotiations under Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul are weighing dropping a ban on new casinos until 2023, and New York City is a potential location that figures to bring one big-dollar lobbying.

"I believe in New York City; I think we are going to come back," Bally's Corp. Chair Soo Kim, who grew up on Queens, told Politico.

There are two horse tracks with video-lottery terminals in the New York City area, MGM's Resorts World New York City in Queens and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, but they figure to be the first houses to benefit when lobbyists get gambling laws to permit a full-fledged casino in the city.

"We are ready to deliver thousands of new jobs for Westchester and the Bronx while generating $1 billion in new economic activity with a full gaming license," MGM wrote in a statement, according to Politico. "Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts is ready to roar."

New York City, with 20 million people and once a tourist capital before the COVID-19 pandemic, has had its residents take their gambling budgets to Atlantic City, New Jersey, or Native American Casinos in Connecticut, but all that tax income could help the city rebound from economic downturn from the pandemic.

"With a responsible approach to pursuing new casino licenses downstate, we have a unique and timely opportunity to put unemployed hospitality workers back to work while also giving our economy a much needed boost," New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council President Rich Maroko.

His union backs a plan for Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack to become into a full casino, once 2014's gambling law is relaxed before 2023's exclusive licenses on New York's upstate casino houses expire.

"It's going to happen soon enough anyway – if we're ready to do it and all the infrastructure is in place and the regulatory structure is in place, why not do it sooner?" state Sen. Mike Gianaris, D-Queens, told Politico.

In addition to the $500 million initiation fee hurdle, regulatory and tax burdens, there is opposition expected, particularly for the most choice locations of Manhattan.

"My concern, representing Manhattan and Times Square is the neighborhoods which would be adjacent to any proposed casino and the impact," state Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, told Politico. "Casinos can have negative externalities, to put it mildly.

"I oppose them strongly and generally have done so in the legislature. When it is in my Senate district, it is even a greater concern."

University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley political science professor Clyde Barrow is skeptical New York City can make enough to overcome the costs of operation.

"The state is going to look to maximize net new revenues and net new job growth in making the decision on where to locate them," Barrow told Politico. "When you put a casino in the middle of nowhere or in a small city, there are limited alternative entertainment venues competing against it.

"But when you put a casino in Manhattan or in Queens, you are competing against every other entertainment, amusement and recreation facility in that city, so it is a vastly more competitive market in which people have lots of other alternatives on how to spend their entertainment dollars."

"It will generate hundreds of millions of dollars, but it won’t be anywhere near the revenue generation forecasts."

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