New York Gaming Commission Gets 30 Responses for Downstate Casinos RFI

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New York Gaming Commission Gets 30 Responses for Downstate Casinos RFI

The New York State Gaming Commission received 30 responses for the request for information (RFI) solicitation it issued regarding the three downstate casino licenses it can award.

Empire City Press Conference
Empire City Press Conference
Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks during a Nov. 17 rally at Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY. Latimer wrote to the New York State Gaming Commission, urging it to give Empire City, which currently only offers electronic games, a full casino license. (Image: Jelena Gerga)

The submitters include eight casino operators, but links to the responses from most of them are almost entirely blacked out. The submissions came from MGM Resorts International, Okada Manila International, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts, Rush Street Gaming, Genting New York LLC, Hard Rock International, and Bally’s Corp.

“Most redactions reflect requested positions of the submitter about material exempted from public disclosure,” the Gaming Commission’s statement read. “The Commission has not confirmed that any of those redactions are consistent with the New York Freedom of Information Law.”

MGM Resorts operates the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway just north of New York City. Genting runs Resorts World New York City, which is located at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Other submissions came from the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which operates Jake’s 58 Casino in Islandia. Those three facilities offer video lottery terminals (VLT) and electronic versions of table games.

By contrast, full-fledged casinos offer slot machines, which operate slightly differently than VLTs and live table games. In New York, full casinos are also allowed to operate retail sportsbooks.

Push to Move Forward on Casino Licenses

New York’s three unissued downstate casino licenses are the last remaining available commercial casino licenses in the state. Voters in 2013 passed a constitutional amendment legalizing commercial casinos, with up to seven across the state.

The upstate region received four licenses and a seven-year head start before the state would award the downstate licenses. That seven-year period is set to end in 2023. However, key state lawmakers want to expedite the process to help the state hasten its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RFI is an informal solicitation that will not lead to any awards. It originated out of the budget the legislature passed in April. The Gaming Commission has indicated that the submissions will be used to guide lawmakers and state officials on the ideal size of the casinos, the evaluation process for license applications, and the appropriate cost for the licenses.

Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee Chairman Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, has estimated the three licenses could generate about $2 billion in funding for the state.

Communities Want Preference for MGM, Resorts World

Both he and Assembly Racing and Wagering Chairman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, favor a plan to give Empire City and Resorts World full casino licenses. They’re not alone. Other elected officials and business and labor stakeholders submitted comments to the Gaming Commission endorsing those proposals as well.

The New Bronx Chamber of Commerce sent a letter supporting the plan to elevate Empire City. The Yonkers facility sits about a mile north of the New York City borough, and Chamber President Lisa Sorin noted that almost 30 percent of Empire City’s workers live in The Bronx.

“The expansion of its operations will generate additional opportunities for job creation benefitting Bronxites,” she said.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer added that converting Empire City into a full casino would create 2,500 new direct jobs. For example, that includes “six new union jobs” for each electronic game replaced by a live table game. It also would generate more than 7,500 indirect jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic may not be over, but the State of New York needs to start implementing policies that will help protect the economic viability of business in a post-pandemic world. Creating a pathway to a full casino license at Empire City will do just that,” Latimer said.

New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams wrote in support of Genting’s Resort World, which operates in her district. She said Genting has invested hundreds of millions into the community and has helped spur economic development in the area.

The Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, AFL-CIO also supports giving Empire City and Resorts World full licenses. The union represents workers at both casinos.

“Primarily, speed to market should be a priority for the state, as existing facilities will result in near-immediate job creation and tax revenues,” the union wrote in its response.

Rush Street Seeks “Level Playing Field”

The Gaming Commission did not redact Rush Street Gaming’s response. In it, the Chicago-based company, which operates Rivers Schenectady in upstate New York, urged state officials to set up a request for proposal process that provides details on certain requirements and lays out how the state will evaluate each proposal.

The company also is pushing for open competition on all licenses.

“It is critical that there be a level playing field for all potential applicants within the process, creating an impartial system and incorporating community input and assessment of current operations,” Rush Street’s response said,

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