As expected, New York gaming officials released the request for applications late Tuesday afternoon for the three remaining casino licenses available in the state.
The Gaming Facility Location Board has provided no official deadline for submissions. All applicants must be willing to invest at least $500 million in any project they propose. The license fee for the new gaming facilities will also be $500 million.
The licenses are expected to go to developments proposed for the downstate region, which includes New York City and its suburbs on Long Island and north of the metropolis.
Nearly a decade ago, the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow commercially licensed casino gaming. The amendment allowed up to seven facilities.
Four of those currently operate in upstate New York, and the remaining three licenses were set to be awarded after a seven-year period. The purpose behind that was to allow the upstate casinos to build up their operations before any New York City facility opened.
Prompts to expedite the process for the remaining licenses grew during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters saw the casino licenses as an opportunity to generate revenue in a state bracing for significant budget deficits. In addition, the new casinos would also generate jobs in the construction and hospitality sectors, both of which were hit hard by the pandemic.
“The quicker the three licenses are approved, the quicker we can begin to realize the major benefits to the state, such as thousands of construction and post-construction jobs, billions in revenue from the licenses, an increase in problem gambling monies and programs, as well as billions more in educational funding when the winning casinos go live,” Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee Chairman Joseph Addabbo said in a statement Wednesday.
Several Bids Expected
The solicitation for casinos in or around the nation’s largest city is expected to generate several high-profile bids. Some have already announced their intention to bid, and after Tuesday’s release, a few reaffirmed that.
The partners on a proposed $3 billion casino resort for Coney Island said they intend to submit an application that would create “an economic boom” for the Brooklyn neighborhood.
For more than a generation, Coney Island has been waiting for a year-round economy that creates not just jobs – but careers,” said Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, Chickasaw Nation, and Legends. “Our partnership is unique, combining unrivaled gaming expertise, an unsurpassed track record in entertainment, and a commitment to serving the local community like no other. We look forward to submitting our bid and setting a new standard in economic revitalization and resiliency for New York.”
A spokesperson for Las Vegas Sands, which has been tied to reports about a Long Island project, lauded the state for taking the next step in the process.
“As the world’s preeminent developer and operator of world-class integrated resorts and casinos, we are excited for the opportunity to present an extremely competitive and compelling proposal,” the spokesperson said. “These new licenses represent the potential to generate thousands of good paying jobs and build an exciting new industry for the region’s economy.”
A Race for One?
While there are three licenses available, some anticipate only one license being up for grabs.
The downstate area already has two large-scale video lottery terminal facilities, the Empire City Casino in Yonkers owned by MGM Resorts International, and Resorts World New York City in Queens. Both of those entities have long expressed their desire to switch out VLT machines for Las Vegas-style slots and add live dealer table games.
One of the touting points for Empire City and Resorts World has been their ability to quickly transition, which would allow the state to start receiving new revenue in the near term instead of waiting several years for a new casino to be built.
“Although the Board was clear this process is for three new licenses, we still agree with the Consensus view that MGM and RWNYC are front-runners for two of the three licenses given their long-standing history in the state. We’ll look to assess other candidates as RFA materials are made available in the coming months,” John DeCree, a senior analyst with CBRE Equity Research, said in a note to investors Wednesday.
The solicitation for the downstate licenses is expected to create the largest opportunity for land-based gaming expansion in recent memory. Last April, CBRE estimated the market for casinos in the area to be $4.8 billion. That’s due to the region being home to nearly 20 million residents who make, on average, $80K a year.
Tuesday’s announcement was the latest step in the process, which still doesn’t have a defined end date.
The GFLB on Tuesday only set a February 3 deadline for questions from interested parties. After that, state gaming officials will answer those and invite a second round of questions. Once the state answers those, the deadline to submit bids would be 30 days later.
Before the board can consider an application, the proposals must first be vetted by, and get two-thirds support from, a local board. Proposals must also get local zoning approvals as well.
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