Developers pitch New York City casino

Long-dismissed plan could gain traction because of state’s financial shortfalls

(Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

New York needs money, and some real estate developers say they have just the solution: another casino.

According to the New York Times, Vornado Realty Trust has proposed a gambling venue at its property near Herald Square; Morris Bailey has discussed having one at his own Herald Square property; and L&L Holding Company has pitched one idea as part of its $2.5 billion project at West 47th Street and Broadway.

In the past, the state government has dismissed the idea of a casino in Manhattan, but the latest push could have a better chance, what with the pandemic leaving the state with a $15 billion shortfall.

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The industry is playing to the moment. “Times Square market is ripe for a high-end casino,” said a promotional document for the L&L project, cited by the Times. “Be the future.”

The government has the authority to issue three new casino licenses starting in 2023, though gambling industry has been lobbying to move up the timeline for years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Tuesday budget proposal reportedly allows the state to seek out information from developers and the gaming industry about their interest in the licenses.

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While some state lawmakers see the licenses as a means to bring in revenue, others oppose the idea.

“I’m not a big fan of casinos, period,” said Democrat Liz Krueger, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

Brad Hoylman, another Manhattan state senator, told the newspaper it “would be a fight to get me and a lot of other people to support a casino.”

For many years, state-sanctioned casinos were blocked entirely by the legislature — especially by then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — on the grounds that they would create and victimize compulsive gamblers. But eventually Cuomo, state legislators and voters approved several licenses for upstate casinos as well as a “racino” (without table games) near Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

The upstate venues have mostly struggled, but the one at Aqueduct has been a big revenue generator, providing easy access for New York City gamblers who previously had to schlep to Connecticut or Atlantic City. Yonkers also has a racino, so-called because the venues were partnered with failing race tracks to prop up the withering horseracing industry.

But researchers have found that a small but significant percentage of gamblers develop an addiction for it.

[NYT] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan