Cohen, Hard Rock Lead New York Casino Lobbying Spending Spree

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New York City lobbyists spent nearly $131 million last year wooing politicians on a variety of issues, including casinos. Not surprisingly, gaming companies were among the biggest spenders.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. He and partner Hard Rock International were the top spenders on New York casino lobbying last year. (Image: CNBC)

A new report from the Office of the City Clerk indicates the biggest spenders last year in terms of New York casino lobbying were New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International, which are partnering on a proposal to bring an integrated resort to the Citi Field area.

New Green Willets and Queens Future, two entities with ties to Cohen, doled out nearly $1.4 million on casino lobbying efforts last year. Hard Rock International, the gaming business of Florida’s Seminole Tribe, spent $660K lobbying in New York City in 2023, according to the report. New Green Willets and Queens Future each retained seven lobbying firms last year, tied for the most in the state.

Cohen and Hard Rock are pitching an $8 billion project known as Metropolitan Park, which has been met with support and resistance among locals. The fate of that effort could soon be determined by State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). If she doesn’t support legislation to change the parkland designation of Willets Point, it could be a heavy lift to move the Queens casino plan forward.

Genting, MGM Lobbying on New York Casino, Too

Malaysia-based Genting Bhd. and MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) each spent about $300K last year lobbying New York City politicians on the casino issue.

Those expenditures are practical because Genting operates Resorts World New York in Queens and MGM runs Empire City Casino in Yonkers. Both are currently slots-only venues and there’s been rampant speculation that both properties are nearly assured of winning two of the three downstate casino permits New York regulators will eventually award.

The two operators are planning as though they’ll be able to convert those venues to Las Vegas-style casinos. Last November, MGM unveiled plans for a massive overhaul of Empire City while Genting last week said it would spend up to $5 billion to convert Resorts World New York into a Strip-like casino hotel.

New York regulators haven’t publicly commented on the odds of Empire City and Resorts World New York winning traditional casino licenses.

Caesars, Wynn Among Other Big Casino Spenders

Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN), which is partnering with Related Cos. on a casino hotel plan at Hudson Yards, allocated $314K to New York City lobbying efforts in 2023, according to City Clerk data.

Bally’s (NYSE: BALY) hired six lobbying firms in New York, spending $285K on those efforts in 2023. The Rhode Island-based regional casino operator recently acquired the lease rights to a golf course at Ferry Point in the Bronx previously managed by the Trump Organization. Bally’s wants to build a casino resort there.

Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR) had New York City lobbying expenditures of $185K last year. The gaming company is partnering with real estate developer SL Green and rapper Jay-Z on a Times Square casino plan.

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