Casinos locked in a war for final NYC licenses

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on: March 19, 2021 5:00 pm EDT

New York City’s recent decision to make casinos legit has created a brick-and-mortar version of a The Bachelor situation. There are just three licenses available for the Downstate area, and two of them are already set aside for established concerns. Just one license remains for the rest of the competitors.

The three licenses have been sitting around gathering dust since 2013 when New York State made provisions for seven licenses across the state. Four went to the Upstate area and three to the Downstate. The latter three licenses were mothballed for a period. This was to allow the Upstate concerns time to establish themselves, without having to compete with the more populous and touristy Downstate area.

The Downstate area includes all five boroughs of NYC along with the Hudson Valley and Long Island. The area contains 13 million people, each of whom (legal age notwithstanding) represents a potential customer for the three licensed casinos.

As a result, competition is fierce. The New York Post reported that there are three main contenders for the remaining license. Wynn Resorts, Bally’s Corp, and Las Vegas Sands are all lobbying government officials and negotiating with potential developers.

Meet your competition

This marks an interesting shift in the Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s priorities. They recently sold their Vegas holdings to focus on the Asian markets. But it seems that New York may prove to be too big an apple to pass up a bite.

Las Vegas Sands have been courting the press in their campaign to get their toes into the Empire State. Robert Goldstein, the CEO of the Sands, told the Post that the company is: “eager to bring our expertise and resources to New York. The move could bring in needed revenue, thousands of jobs, and help rebuild the state from the devastating effects of COVID.”

Goldstein added: “And we don’t need any subsidies to do it.” That’s a quip about the enormous check Sands pocketed after the sale of their Las Vegas assets.

The other two companies are less surprising.

Bally’s Corp has been on a tear this year, hoovering up companies left and right, including the WPT assets originally earmarked for Element Partners. That they would pass up an opportunity to put down further roots on the East coast is no surprise.

Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts is as established a casino brand as any in the U.S.

Waiting for casinos

Originally, the three licenses were not scheduled to become available until 2023, on Governor Cuomo’s say-so.

However, the recession has caused the city to move things up a bit. Perhaps Cuomo was too busy to notice, as he is dealing with his own poker-related scandal.

The two licenses that the local authorities were supposed to have assigned by now will most likely go to the Resorts World Aqueduct racino over in Queens and the Empire City Casino in Yonkers. MGM recently took over the latter.

Both properties are already licensed to provide slot machines to the Downstate area. Their standing as established, licensed, and local businesses makes them prime candidates for when the licensing board eventually hammers out the details.

Featured image source: Flickr by Giuseppe Milo