Thor launches $3B “underdog” Brooklyn casino bid

Competition for gambling venue revives Joe Sitt’s Coney Island redevelopment dream

Illustration of Joseph Sitt (Illustration by The Real Deal; Getty; Thor)
Illustration of Joseph Sitt (Illustration by The Real Deal; Getty; Thor)

Joseph Sitt is the latest developer to push all of his chips into the pot for a New York City casino.

His Thor Equities is proposing a $3 billion casino in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, the New York Times first reported. The developer announced the bid Tuesday in partnership with Saratoga Casino Holdings and the Chickasaw Nation.

“People want to see the good guy win, the underdog win,” Sitt told the Times from the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

The gambling venue is the crux of his proposal for one of New York City’s three casino operating licenses, but is only part of Sitt’s vision for a hotel and entertainment complex for Coney Island with a roller coaster, an indoor water park, hotels and museums.

The bid, the first proposal for Brooklyn, is similar to a Las Vegas–style development Sitt proposed in the early 2000s — sans casino — that was rejected by the Bloomberg administration after a long standoff. Thor eventually sold the city a parcel that had been key to his vision.

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But Sitt still owns land in the neighborhood and sees a casino as making the rest of the plan viable, as it would attract retailers and investors. He is likely to run into local opposition from Coney Island, where he spent a great deal of time in his youth. Sitt lives in nearby Gravesend.

Thor owns from Stillwell Avenue to approximately West 12th Street and from Surf Avenue to Wonder Wheel Way, according to a spokesperson for the firm. The casino would go on land that Thor controls. More details will be released after the state begins accepting proposals, which it must do no later than Jan. 6.

The competition for the three casino licenses is stiff, especially as two so-called racinos — Genting’s Resorts World at Aqueduct and MGM’s Empire City in Yonkers — are seen as favorites for two of the licenses.

Related Companies, SL Green and Vornado Realty Trust have already floated proposals to develop casinos in Manhattan. Related’s would be in Hudson Yards, SL Green’s in Times Square and Vornado’s in Herald Square.

Stefan Soloviev this week entered the running, telling Bloomberg he intends to propose a hotel, park and entertainment complex for a six-acre site south of the United Nations.

Sitt’s project would be about 45 minutes away by car or subway in what has always been a seasonal destination. Among the investors in the effort is Legends, a company co-founded and part-owned by affiliates of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, Gothamist reported.

— Holden Walter-Warner