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Casino Companies Battle For New York City Casino License

Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands Corp And Bally's Are Fighting For Final Downstate License, According To Report

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Three major casino companies are jockeying for position to obtain a lucrative New York City-area gaming license, according to a report from the New York Post. The report states that Wynn Resorts, Bally’s Corp and Las Vegas Sands Corp are all “quietly positioning themselves to compete” for the license, which includes lobbying local politicians and talking to developers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo currently has a moratorium on any full-scale casinos in the New York City area until 2023, but a recession stemming from the shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled speculation that Cuomo could lift that order early to create jobs and put money back into the state coffers.

Cuomo has already backtracked on his opposition to mobile sports betting and added tax revenue from it in his most recent budget proposal. In that same proposal, Cuomo included a “request for expressions of interest,” which tells the casino industry that he wants input on the licensing situation. If the legislature doesn’t remove that, casino proposals could be submitted by the fall and the process could start a year ahead of the projected timeline.

It’s an idea that New York City Mayoral Candidate and former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang publicly supports. In January, Yang expressed support for a New York City casino and said in a radio interview that the casino “would generate so much money it would be bananas.”

Some lawmakers have already expressly called for Cuomo to remove the restriction and issue the licenses earlier than planned. Democratic Sen. James Skoufis was one of the first to support the idea last August when he was fearful that the state wouldn’t receive stimulus money from the federal government and thought the $500 million licensing fees would help cure the state’s deficit woes.

There are three licenses set to be awarded for the downstate area, which accounts for the Hudson Valley, all five New York City boroughs and Long Island, but two are already spoken for. Empire City Casino in Yonkers, which was bought by MGM Resorts in January 2019 in anticipation of a full-scale casino license, and Resorts World Aqueduct racino in Queens are both likely to receive licenses.

The last remaining license is up for grabs between the three major companies. Even though Sands sold its two Las Vegas properties at the start of March, leaving it without a single casino in the U.S., the company seems primed to establish another American casino as it has lobbied for gambling legalization in Texas and is now in the market for a New York City property.

Wynn Resorts opened its first northeastern casino in July 2019 with the grand opening of Encore Boston Harbor and would be looking for its fourth casino and second outside of Las Vegas. Bally’s was originally Twin River Worldwide Holdings until the Rhode Island-based gaming company that owns 15 casinos in 11 states bought the Bally’s brand from Caesars Entertainment for $20 million.

Yang was pushing for a casino on Governor’s Island, a 172-acre island located about 800 yards south of Manhattan. But the Post is reporting that the final location will likely be in one of the outer boroughs.