Is New York Casino Speculation Getting Out of Hand?

New York casino speculation ranges from what’s going to happen with the three new downstate retail casino licenses to when state lawmakers will legalize online casino gambling. All of the talk may be premature.

With everyone from the governor to state lawmakers seemingly in favor of expanding gambling in New York, perhaps the only near-term issue to watch is the governor’s race.

On Tuesday, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul faces US Rep. Lee Zeldin at the ballot box. Hochul is favored to win by 7.6%, FiveThirtyEight forecasts today.

Both Hochul, a Democrat, and Zeldin, her Republican competitor, are pro-gambling.

However, Zeldin may represent the primary possibility for derailing the process that begins on Jan. 6. That’s when the New York Gaming Facility Location Board (NYGFLB) will begin accepting applications for the downstate retail casino licenses.

New York Casinos in the Governor’s Race Debate

This exchange happened on Oct. 25 during the New York Governor Debate:

Moderator: Should New York alter or pause plans to allow for casino gambling in New York City?

Zeldin: Well, the big question is siting and the answer is ‘possibly.’

Retail casinos “shouldn’t be jammed into areas that do not want it,” he said.

Zeldin may have been referring to the proposed Caesars Palace Times Square, which is getting pushback from those who don’t want to see it at 1515 Broadway.

Hochul answered the moderator next:

No. We’re not going to stop the process. This is an opportunity to recharge downstate communities.

The siting process is already “underway, because I got it moving,” she said.

New York Casino Speculation Enters Conspiracy Theory Territory

The New York Post published an “exclusive” quoting mostly unnamed sources on Oct. 16. Those sources told the newspaper that two existing downstate gambling facilities, which don’t yet have full casino licenses, may be favored to be among the three applicants who receive full licenses after the months-long NYGFLB process.

They allege Hochul rigged the process for those campaign donors by putting language in the siting guidelines that lends weight to existing facilities. Those are Resorts World New York in Queens and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, an MGM Resorts International property.

This particular New York casino conspiracy theory posits, according to the New York Post:

Lobbying firms or lobbyists for Genting NY-Resorts World have donated more than $50,000 to Hochul’s campaign committee/Friends for Kathy Hochul — notably $25,000 from lobbyist John Cordo in August and $15,250 from Patrick Jenkins over the past year, state Board of Election records show.

Genting-NY at Aqueduct itself has donated $2 million to politicians and political parties across the spectrum over the past decade and has spent millions more lobbying the executive and legislative branches.

Hochul responded that she “wasn’t rigging the bidding process,” as the newspaper paraphrased her. Plus, that language came from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Siting Process Won’t Begin Until Jan. 6

NY Sports Day is keeping tabs on the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) and it hasn’t had any news since the body appointed the NYGFLB’s three members on Oct. 3.

When the commission appointed those board members, NYSGC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer emphasized that this process is starting from scratch.

O’Dwyer’s exact words were:

This is indeed a tabula rasa.

The first item of business for the board is to open the application process for license hopefuls on Jan. 6.

However, it seems O’Dwyer was already trying to put New York casino rumors to bed.

Meanwhile, even before the Oct. 20 announcement from Caesars, Related Companies and Wynn Resorts said they’d partnered on “a resort, entertainment and gaming destination along the Hudson River.” The real estate company’s Sept. 15 press release said the retail casino would be at the Western Yards at Hudson Yards. 

New York Online Casino, Sportsbooks Part of the Hype

New York casino hype is happening because the Empire State is important to the gambling industry. The state’s 8.5 million people already support 31 casinos – tribal and commercial – that generated $3.64 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2021.

The three downstate casino licenses that are the subject of so much discussion are commercial and will join the 12 in the American Gaming Association (AGA) tally.

Add to that financial reality the fact that the three chosen retail casino operators will also be able to add online sportsbook partnerships to their licenses, and the GGR opportunity grows.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., D-Queens, noted on Oct. 27 that New York sports betting generated more than $1 billion in GGR since Launch Day, Jan. 8, 2022.

Addabbo also vociferously advocates New York online casino legalization, which he plans to bring up to state legislators in 2023.

However, like Hochul, Addabbo first needs to defeat his Republican opponent on Tuesday. Danniel Maio talked to about his campaign priorities and didn’t even mention New York casino proposals of any kind.

Maybe more New York casino speculation can wait until after Election Day.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher covers online casino news for NY Sports Day. Prior to that, she spent a dozen years writing about marketing and working in that field. She was also a newspaper reporter in Ohio and eventually saw her bylines published in The New York Times.

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