New York Lawmakers Push For Faster Casino Licensing To Boost State Economy

Erik Gibbs

joseph addabbo jr

In an attempt to give New York’s gaming industry a boost, a new legislative push is underway by Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. They have submitted proposed legislation that aims to expedite the licensing process for three downtown casinos in the state.

The proposed law stipulates a deadline for the submission of casino license bids by July 31. It also adds a mandate for the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) to approve the licenses by March 31 of next year. This accelerated timeline contrasts sharply with the recent announcement from the NYSGC that indicated that the licenses would not be awarded until Dec. 31, 2025.

The proposed legislation by Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman Pretlow is seen as a strategic move to unlock the economic potential of the gaming sector more swiftly. The lawmakers argue that the current schedule is inefficient and delays the economic benefits that could be reaped by the state.

They believe that speeding up the licensing process could generate thousands of jobs and contribute billions in additional revenue for New York. Some assert that the state is potentially leaving up to $2 billion in revenue on the table due to the delayed licensing.

The bill also proposes an upfront license fee of at least $500 million for each bidder that secures a license. Additionally, it allows a two-year window to resolve any legal or land-use issues that may arise.

This latter provision is pertinent for projects like the one proposed by Mets owner Steve Cohen. He wants to build an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex next to Citi Field in Queens. Cohen’s project, among others, faces significant hurdles, including the need for state legislative approval to redesignate parkland around Citi Field for commercial use.

Time’s running out

The push for this legislation has not been without controversy. The accelerated timeline proposed by Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman Pretlow could potentially benefit existing gaming properties, such as Resorts World at Aqueduct Race Track and MGM Empire City at Yonkers raceway. Both are looking to obtain a license.

These properties would simply need to expand their existing operations to offer gaming tables. This aspect of the bill has raised questions about whether it unfairly advantages certain bidders over others, particularly those facing political resistance or zoning issues.

The debate over the proposed law also touches on broader themes of economic development and job creation. Sen. Addabbo, whose district borders Genting’s Resorts World, has emphasized the need for efficiency and action. He points out that there are at least 5,000 jobs possible once the additional casinos begin operations.

This sentiment is echoed by Assemblyman Pretlow. He has expressed frustration over the slow pace of the licensing process and its impact on potential revenue and employment opportunities for New Yorkers.

This legislation comes at a critical juncture, as the current session of the state legislature draws to a close. New York lawmakers don’t convene on Fridays, making this week a four-day workweek. Next week’s schedule will be even shorter, with only three days of legislative activity because of the Memorial Day holiday on May 27. The legislative session concludes on Thursday, June 6, which means there are only 11 days left for the proposed legislation to find approval.