Here’s how NYC casino bidders are betting on lobbying

Mets owner Steve Cohen’s hopes for Queens lead license hopefuls

Owner of the New York Mets Steven Cohen and Citi Field (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)
Owner of the New York Mets Steven Cohen and Citi Field (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)

New York isn’t yet accepting applications for three downstate casino licenses, but top hopefuls are leaning into outside lobbying to shape their odds.

Outside lobbying firms were paid at least $2.6 million from January to April to pitch casino projects to politicians and community groups, Crain’s reported. The figure omits some other spending services, such as in-house lobbying spending and contracts with consultants and public relation firms, neither of which are in public records.

The bulk of the money is tied to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s bid next to Citi Field in Queens. 

It’s the only pitch to see more than $1 million spent on outside lobbyists this year, including RXR Development and a firm founded by the father of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rumored partner Seminole Hard Rock has chipped in $260,000 on issues that appear to overlap with the developer’s interests. 

Bally’s has paid $279,000 for a half dozen lobbyists on behalf of its 10-acre proposal for the Trump Golf Links course in the Bronx, lobbying the likes of the borough president and critical council member Marjorie Velazquez. Wynn Resorts has paid $176,000 to lobby officials such as Comptroller Brad Lander and Community Board 4 chair Jeffrey LeFrancois, though partner Related Companies hasn’t disclosed any casino lobbying for its Hudson Yards proposal.

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Even those who seem to have one of the three available gaming licenses in the bag are not taking any chances. Genting spent $596,000 regarding Resorts World in Queens and MGM resorts anted up $60,000 on behalf of Empire City Casino in Yonkers; both “racinos” have been expected to be likely winners in the contest. 

Other casino lobbying compensation disclosed for the first third of the year include $220,000 from the Las Vegas Sands for its Nassau County bid; $161,000 from SL Green and Caesars Entertainment at Times Square; $65,000 from Thor Equities and Saratoga Casino Holdings for a Coney Island bid; and $60,000 from Hudson’s Bay Company for a casino atop Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship.

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The lobbyist scoreboard shows zeros for two notable bids. The Soloviev Group and Mohegan Sun have not reported explicit casino lobbying for its bid for a hotel and entertainment complex on Manhattan’s East Side, by the United Nations. Vornado Realty Trust, which has hinted at a Herald Square proposal, also hasn’t reported lobbying compensation tied to gaming issues.

Holden Walter-Warner