With ‘Conceptual Agreement’ For Downstate Casino Licenses In Place, New York Budget Talks Continue

Written By Derek Helling on April 8, 2022
Second Overtime Week New York budget Negotiations Set To Extend

If the first week of extended negotiations over the New York budget were overtime, then those talks are now headed to what you could call double-overtime. However, the second extra period could be quite short.

For those interested in gambling in New York, it seems a proposal to accelerate the timeline for new downstate brick-and-mortar commercial casinos is all but official. The exclusion of other potential gaming measures bears the same level of near-certainty as well.

New York budget reconciliation nearly done

By law, the state is supposed to have a budget in place for the proceeding fiscal years by April 1. That didn’t happen this year. As of Friday afternoon, the state’s legislature had not voted on a final proposal. Gov. Kathy Hochul can’t sign off until that happens.

However, it seems a vote could be a formality at this point. Mike Mazzeo of sister site PlayNY reports that New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told him, “we’re at the doorstep.”

Additionally, Dan Clark of New York Now has Hochul saying a “conceptual agreement” is in place. In those comments, Hochul said she wants to see three additional licenses.

So, what does that have to do with gambling? Plenty if you’re talking about commercial physical casinos in New York.

Casino licenses part of New York budget bill

As Clark reports, the three original proposals from New York’s two legislative chambers and Hochul are down to two bills. One of them covers the Education, Labor, and Family Assistance part of the state’s budget.

That has provisions related to three licenses for downstate commercial casinos tucked into it. In 2013, the state enacted a new amendment to its constitution. That provided for up to seven commercial casino licenses, with three earmarked for the downstate portion.

The enabling legislation set an order for the awarding of licenses, with the four current upstate licenses going first. The enabling legislation at the time restricted the awarding of the downstate trio to no earlier than 2023.

This budget bill would cut down on that wait. The New York State Gaming Commission could issue a request for license applications as soon as it’s ready. The proposal also sets a floor for the bidding process and other structural parameters.

Favorites for New York casino licenses are clear

In New York, deciding which bidders get gaming licenses isn’t simply a matter of who commits the most money. To be certain, that definitely helps. In fact, the bill sets the floor for such bids at $500 million in this case.

Also important are other matters like how quickly a candidate could actually start using that license. For that reason, two current facilities in New York seem to have an inside track to one of these licenses each.

MGM Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World NYC in Jamaica (Queens) offer video gaming terminal play with their Class II licenses right now. Their location, suitability, and speed to market make them strong favorites to land Class III licenses.

The remaining license would perhaps go to a company from outside of the state right now. There is some interest from parties who have a different presence in New York, too.

Contenders for the remaining NY casino license

So far, Bally’s, Hard Rock, the Las Vegas Sands Co., and Wynn Resorts have expressed interest or are rumored to be interested in a license. Bally’s is already a contractor with the state for online sports betting. Hard Rock also has a New York City hotel.

Additionally, Japanese entertainment company Universal Entertainment has submitted plans for a casino in Manhattan.

Potential sites indicated in connection to those surveys include plots near Belmont Park in Long Island and Citi Field in Queens. New York Mets owner Steven Cohen is reportedly stumping for the Las Vegas Sands Co. proposal near the Mets’ stadium.

It’s uncertain how many other contenders might join the fray once the Commission puts out a request. What seems concrete at this point, however, is that the final budget won’t feature any more gambling measures.

No new online gambling in New York budget

Earlier in the process, several other gambling proposals were part of individual chambers’ budgets. That included:

  • Authorizing online casino play
  • Expanding the number of online sports betting licenses
  • Giving sports stadiums in New York the option to offer sports betting kiosks
  • Legalizing fixed-odds wagering on horse races

Those resolutions did not make it into this conceptual agreement, however. Addabbo says he will push for online casino expansion next year. He also stated that he would try to push on the other issues later in this session.

At any time now, a final version of the budget could head toward Hochul’s desk, where she seems likely to sign it. With her pen stroke, new casinos in the southern part of the state could arrive a year sooner.

Photo by Shutterstock.com
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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