While the destinations of two of the three new Southern New York Casinos could be anticipated findings, the decision on a third party could be highly dependent on the interests, loyalties and feelings of the people making that decision.
So, knowing who will make that decision helps read the room on the issue.
So far, state regulators have not revealed any of their cards as to who could take seats on panels that will influence the final judging. A look at history and the law, however, provides some clues.
What the Upstate New York Casino Law Says
Earlier this year, the licensing process for three downstate casinos was launched. The state budget included provisions that eliminated a moratorium effective next year.
the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) can now assign these licenses as soon as it is ready to do so.
MGM Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York in Jamaica (Queens) seem the presumed favorites to land two of those licenses.
Currently, these facilities operate as “racinos”. Although they offer slot machines, they cannot legally take bets on sporting events and table games.
Class III license would allow them to increase their offer of slot machines. Additionally, they might offer retail sports betting and bring blackjack, craps, and roulette tables.
A third Class III license will likely go through an open bidding process.
The NYSCG will ultimately make the decision on the license award offer. The law requires them to get help to do so.
The law uses a familiar regulatory process
The NYSGC will establish a NYC Gaming Facility Location Chart as a first business order.
This has been standard practice since the first issuance of Class III licenses in the state after the 2013 Constitutional Amendment.
This advice helped the Commission select the locations and operators of the four current upstate New York commercial casinos.
The Commission has again 180 days from the date of entry into force of the law to appoint the members of the Council. Once members have taken office, they will issue a call for nominations.
Gaming companies looking for a license will respond to this FRG. The Council will then make a recommendation to the Commission.
There’s more support on the way, though. Other people will take an active role in this process depending on the locations of the disparate offers.
Local leaders will also participate in the process
To obtain a recommendation from the board of directors, each offer will have to be approved by a separate community advisory committee. It’s another body of six limbs distinct not only from the Council but also from the Commission.
This body would ensure that proposals meet local requirements such as zoning rules. The Committee will then vote on the proposals. A 2/3 votes favorable would represent ten% of the Commission’s final decision.
These community committees have the clearest compositions under the law. This setting virtually ensures the involvement of an influential New Yorker.
New York Mayor Eric Adams is expected to intervene
The law specifies exactly who should be part of each Community Advisory Committee. These individuals are:
- A person Governor Kathy Hochul will name
- A New York State Senator
- A member of the New York Assembly
- The appropriate borough president
- The member of the New York City Council representing the particular district
- Mayor of New York
It is critical to note that the law does not require members of the New York Legislature to participate in these panels to represent the appropriate districts. However, the decisions of the Commission could in any case favor such selections.
With this provision, the current Eric Adams, Mayor of New York will participate in the evaluation of all casino license offer.
It seems certain in advance that it will strongly defend its territory.
Adams already active in upstate New York’s casino problem
Jon Campbell of gothamist reported at the end of March that Adams is not just aboard a casino in New York.
He at least agrees with the idea of two casinos in the five boroughs. This probably means that he not only wants to see Resorts World in Queens is expanding, but one of the boroughs is also getting the third casino license.
At this point, there seems to be no telling which developer or site he might prefer for it.
Dana Rubinstein and Luis Ferré Sardurni report in The New York Times that Adams staff met with executives of several interested bidders, including the Las Vegas Sands Co.
While Adams could have a lot of influence on this issue, he won’t be alone. This is where the situation becomes as difficult to read as an emotionless poker player.
Who else could occupy the positions of committee, board of directors?
The requirements for the Facilities location table are not as concrete as for community committees. The law simply says that the six members of the Council cannot be elected.
In 2013, the NYSGC named a mixture from business moguls, former high-ranking New York City employees, and state university presidents to the then-five seats.
It is uncertain whether the Commission will follow this example for casinos in upstate New York.
Legislators and city council members who hold committee positions will also have a big impact on the location of casinos. Some representatives of these places seem less willing than others.
Mixed reactions in jurisdictions
So far, it looks like Manhattan officials might have the loudest voice in this matter. Whether that’s a good or bad thing for casino developers in this borough is up for debate, though.
For example, MP Richard Godfried went on record opposing a casino in Manhattan. His district is located on the west side of this borough and includes Times Square.
“I think a casino would have a detrimental effect on the whole atmosphere of the area around it,” Godfried said.
“I find it hard to believe that once there is a casino in Manhattan, there won’t be a lot of pressure for more.”
State Senator Liz Kruger is another important Manhattan voice. She told the New York Times in March that she “liked the storylines” of two spots in particular; one is adjacent to The aquatic club and another at the top Saks Fifth Avenue.
Additionally, she told the newspaper that her “gut is Manhattan,” meaning she thinks that’s where the third casino will end up.
To start, she already had a meeting with Hard Rock. It remains unclear whether this indicates his inclusion on a community advisory board.
So far, New York City Council members love Erik Botcherwhose neighborhood includes Times Square, have remained silent on the matter.
However, the days when Bottcher and others could afford this quiet neutrality are coming to an end. Very soon, they will have to give opinions on the casinos of the downstate of New York.