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New York Senator Proposes Alternative Site For Steve Cohen’s Casino Bid

New York Sen. Jessica Ramos announced that she has drafted a bill that could pave the way for a potentially second casino in Queens.

Planes Navigate LaGuardia Airport In Queens, NY
Photo by AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Derek Helling Avatar
6 mins read

If Queens does become home to two of three downstate New York casinos, neither of them is likely to be where businessman Steve Cohen would prefer. Cohen’s proposal to put one of those facilities near Citi Field seems more improbable than ever after the member of the New York Senate representing people in the area reaffirmed that she will not coalesce with Cohen’s wishes.

The state senator in question, Jessica Ramos, remains open to the notion of a casino in her district. She simply is not willing to use her power to facilitate the development of a casino at the site the New York Mets owner prefers. On Tuesday, Ramos shared that she had prepared an alternative plan.

Ramos confirms position, announces bill

On May 28, Ramos shared an update on X regarding her position on a brick-and-mortar, commercial casino in her district. Much of the statement was a simple affirmation of her earlier sentiments.

She has maintained that she will not introduce necessary legislation to re-designate a park adjacent to Citi Field for commercial use.

“I will not introduce legislation to alienate parkland in Corona for the purposes of a casino. Whether people rallied for or against Metropolitan Park, I heard the same dreams for Corona. We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space, and recreation for the whole family. We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off. I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.”

What is new in her statement, however, is the drafting of a bill that presents the hopeful casino developers with another site.

“I have drafted an alternative alienation bill that strikes a balance and would allow Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock to build a convention center and hotel, and more than double the proposed open green space. The parcel in question is in strategic proximity to LaGuardia Airport, and allows for visitors and tourists to feed into our vibrant food scene while addressing the consequence of climate change in the area. Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock would still make a profit, albeit less.

I hope my Assembly counterpart will consider this proposal so we can bring it to the Governor’s office and get to work. I recommend the City amend the lease to collect revenue from property tax and allow for speedy renovation of this parcel.

Mr. Cohen and his team have often declared their love for our community and said they recognize our potential. Finding a path forward would be a good way to show it.”

This update likely comes as more of a disappointment than anything else for Cohen and his developmental partner, Hard Rock. Ramos’ cooperation is pivotal to their current plan.

Cohen, Hard Rock need Ramos to play ball

The re-designation of Metropolitan Park is essential for Cohen’s/Hard Rock’s bid to put a casino next to Citi Field. Such a change in designation can only be affected by the state of New York, not local authorities.

Any member of the New York Assembly or Senate could, in theory, introduce legislation to affect the change. However, Ramos would be likely to oppose such a bill. As the senator representing people in the immediate area, her position would carry a lot of weight.

Thus, a bill to this end sponsored by another member; one who does not represent the district, is likely to fail. Therefore, it seems Cohen and Hard Rock have four options at this point:

  1. Make further overtures to Ramos to move her from her current position
  2. Consider Ramos’ proposal for the alternate site
  3. Find another alternate site different from that which Ramos proposed
  4. Abandon the project altogether

Ramos has not been the only voice opposing Cohen’s/Hard Rock’s plan. The Fed Up Coalition expressed concerns about the impact of a casino on the local community, wherein there is a significant presence of immigrants from Asian countries.

Thus, community members other than Cohen are likely pleased with Ramos’ Tuesday announcement. For Cohen and Hard Rock, though, an alternative site means they have much to do and an indeterminate amount of time to complete the tasks.

Back to the drawing board for Cohen, Hard Rock

Considering an alternate site, be it the one Ramos suggested or not, is no light undertaking for Cohen and Hard Rock. That requires meetings with architects and attorneys, city leaders, environmental impact studies, and engagement with residents.

Complicating the situation is that Cohen and Hard Rock don’t really know how much time they have to get a comprehensive, polished plan together. While there is legislation in Albany that could speed up the process, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) may not award licenses for up to three casinos in the southern part of New York until late 2025.

That’s just one component of the process, however. The NYSGC will only determine the suitability of parties involved in a downstate New York casino for a license to operate that casino. The Gaming Facility Location Board is the body that will determine whether a potential licensee’s chosen site for a casino complies with all the requirements. That body might require complete bids on a less forgiving timeline.

The law in New York currently only allows the NYSGC to issue up to three licenses for what it considers the downstate part of New York. For these purposes, that includes:

  • All five New York City boroughs
  • Long Island
  • Putnam County
  • Rockland County
  • Westchester County

While necessity may facilitate Cohen’s and Hard Rock’s consideration of Ramos’ proposal, it’s fair to question whether that appraisal would be an honest effort. The diminished returns that Ramos spoke of might motivate Cohen and Hard Rock to continue pressing their original plan. Regardless, there is room for a quick, remedial assessment of Ramos’ suggestion.

Feasibility of Ramos’ proposal lies in the unknown details

At this time, most of the details of Ramos’ proposals are unknown. More will become evident when she either shares her draft of the legislation or files the bill. There simply isn’t enough information to make a thorough assessment of her suggestion at this time.

A very casual examination produces mixed results. Most of the casino bids that have been publicly shared are within the five boroughs. One of the odds-on favorites to receive a license is already in Queens. Such a license would allow Resorts World New York City in Jamaica to expand its gaming operations.

That would put one of the downstate New York casinos about 10 miles away from the site that Ramos has proposed. If distance between the potential casinos is important, that would strengthen Ramos’ case. Resorts World New York is just about eight miles from Citi Field.

At this time, there has been less public clamor against a casino adjacent to LaGuardia. However, that may only be because community groups and residents have not had to consider the notion until now. A more complete presentation of the plan may rile similar angst.

The same principle applies to the sentiments of elected officials for the immediate area on the local level. While at some point silence could be tacit to approval, the lack of a thorough presentation makes the current stage too early for that judgment.

There are other considerations, like to what extent a casino next to LaGuardia might further congest traffic. Another factor is whether the development might displace current establishments.

The only thing that seems certain right now is that while Ramos is not opposed to a casino in her district, she is firmly against a casino in Corona. Cohen and Hard Rock need to adjust somehow.

Derek Helling Avatar
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Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

View all posts by Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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