Better late than never, the New York State fiscal year 2023 budget has passed with the blessing of Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature on Saturday.
In the more than $220 billion budget is the inclusion plans for three downstate casinos. Each will be subjected to a bidding and site process that will include New York City’s five boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island), Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley Region, which includes Westchester and Rockland counties.
“The inclusion of the downstate casino licenses in this year’s budget is a win for New York State and the local communities where these licenses will go." State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., a huge proponent of gaming in the Empire State and chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said in a news release.
“By allowing three casinos in the downstate region to operate with full licenses, it will create thousands of jobs when considering construction and credible post-construction union jobs. It also means additional revenue for the state, estimated at an initial $1.5 billion from the three license fees, and will allow us to significantly fund important educational and gaming addiction programs.”
Addabbo said he is pleased with the progress of mobile sports betting, which launched Jan. 8, as well as the measure for the casinos in the budget. Still, there is more work to be done, he said.
“While this is a nice step forward for New York State, this does not mean our work is done. In fact, our work is just beginning,” he said. “Following the budget, the legislature must monitor the timely, fair and transparent bidding process for the licenses, and ensure that the siting process is being credibly implemented. I look forward to working with my colleagues, the Gaming Commission and the Hochul Administration on the downstate license issue.”
Just like it did with mobile sports betting for the state, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) will get to work again.
The NYSGC, which successfully shepherded mobile New York sports betting, is putting together a six-member site review board called the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, which will not include state legislators or elected officials. Members must be appointed within 180 days of the bill being signed with a majority of four votes needed in the early process for the site licenses.
Licensing fees would be $500 million or more, with each having a term of no less than 10 and no more than 30 years.
“I want to see the additional licenses for three casinos in the state of New York,” Hochul, who is up for re-election this year, said near the end of her budget press conference last week. “In New York City, there was strong interest where sites could go. The city has a different interest, upstate has a different interest, so they will be part of the process to have local engagement included, where this can create thousands of jobs.”
The NYSGC actually could begin the process by issuing Requests for Applications (RFA), just like it did with mobile sports betting licenses, from any potential and interested bidders. Those RFAs would be issued within 90 days and the majority of members appointed to the newly created board would go over each one.
From there, any company looking to put a casino downstate would need approval from a separate, six-person community advisory committee. They would gather research and local input from that community and advance applications to the next round by two-thirds of a vote, with zoning requirement being met as well within that community.
The NYSGC would select the winning bids by a scoring system, just like they previously conducted with mobile sports betting operators.
Reaction from potential casino owners has started to come in.
“MGM Resorts looks forward to responding to the anticipated Request for Applications and is excited by the opportunity to bring thousands of quality jobs and meaningful private investment to Westchester and the region,” Bill Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts, said in a statement.
The sports betting arm of MGM, Bet MGM New York, is among the four top operators so far in mobile betting.
One of the other potential bidders could be Resorts World.
“Resorts World New York City could not be more excited for the nearing of an opportunity to participate in a competitive process for a full casino license in New York City,” Robert DeSalvio, president of Genting Americas East (which operates Resorts World New York), said in a released statement. “More than 10 years ago, we made a commitment to our partners throughout the state that we would create good-paying union jobs, have a strong and diverse workforce, generate much-needed education revenue, and be an economic engine for the entire community.
“A decade later, we have kept our promise backed by more than $1.1 billion invested in our world-class property.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the state and local stakeholders on this important and timely leap forward. We are ready, willing and able to immediately double our workforce by adding more than 1,000 new union jobs and help the true potential of resort-style gaming, entertainment and hospitality be realized right here in the heart of Queens.”
Resorts World New York was the eighth operator to go live in New York for sports betting on March 3.
The New York Times reported on March 30 that some of the ideas put forth have included a "Monaco-style" casino atop Saks Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, across the street from famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as a Hard Rock casino in Times Square and a potential spot with a view of the East River.
Although mobile sports betting is permitted in the state, New York does not have real money online casinos. Legislation to move that along is still in committees in the state Senate and Assembly.