Issuing Downstate Licenses in New York to Be Postponed Until Late 2025

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Issuing New York casino licenses seems to be more complicated than anyone expected. According to the most recent update the regulators released on March 25, the downstate licenses won’t be granted until late 2025.

Reasons behind postponement:

The main reason for this postponement is regulatory issues that haven’t been addressed yet, according to Robert Williams, a Gaming Commission Executive Director. He said to the board that there was no point in opening applications and leaving a 30-day window for applications open when it’s still unknown which operators will be able to bid.

Among the main problems is the zoning of New York City, as well as reviews of land use and environment. Resolving these issues will last until the end of 2024, and even after everything is cleared up, the potential bidders will have to get approval from a “citizens advisory council”.

On top of that the state wouldn’t be able to impose the casino fees before the 2025-26 fiscal year.

Williams said: “Staff believes the timeline accommodates the existing statutory requirements … and allows sufficient time for local zoning approvals, which will enable the best, most comprehensive plans for commercial casino development.” 

Las Vegas Sands, one of the leaders in the US market, plans to build a $4 billion casino resort, for which the company would have to bid for the license. The planned casino would be located on the Nassau Coliseum site.

Everyone expected that the bidding would begin in the first six months of 2024, however, that didn’t happen.

As Newsday reports, Bennet Liebman, a government lawyer and a former member of what used to be the Racing and Wagering Board, now called the Gaming Commission, said: “I don’t think they had much choice if you’re going to require all the zoning decisions in advance and the citizens advisory council decisions. That all has to be time-consuming. I think it was a wise move — it’s good to let [bidders] know. But you don’t normally expect them to put it off that far. That’s a long time off.”

On top of that, the delay in opening the window is caused by another requirement: the companies are obligated to provide a plan on how they would fund the project, and it’s too early for that at this point, according to Williams. He said: “The encumbering of money well in advance of when a determination on licensing is made could substantially increase the costs of access to the capital markets, which could have an unintended impact of causing a reduction in the size and scope of a proposal.”

Benefits of delay:

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However, according to Liebman, this delay might help the companies that are undergoing legal processes at the moment. Among them is Sands, because it is in the middle of the process of getting the lease for Coliseum, which was declared invalid recently.

On top of that, the companies that want to bid for the license need the approval of land-conveyance legislation that will let them incorporate the parkland. Among the companies that are waiting for approval are Hard Rock/Steve Cohen plan for Citi Field in Queens and Bally’s proposal for Bronx’s Ferry Point.

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