New York casino licenses spur interest from local companies, Strip operators

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul talks with reporters about the state budget at the state Capitol, Mo ...

Several Las Vegas resort companies are expected to vie for a license to open a casino in or near New York City.

When New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislative leaders fast-tracked the licensing of new casinos last week, they revived interest in the state’s expansion of casino gambling in one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

“The legislation sets a minimum license fee of $500 million but gives the New York State Gaming Commission the option to accept higher bids,” said Las Vegas-based John DeCree, senior analyst with CBRE Equity Research. “The slot and table tax minimums are expected to be set at 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, but will ultimately be determined by a competitive bidding process similar to the mobile sports wagering licensing process.”

DeCree, in a report to investors issued Monday, said taxes collected on gaming revenue would fund education and horse-racing purses, regardless of what tax rate is decided.

Those tax rates are among the highest in the nation. Nevada taxes gaming revenue at a maximum 6.75 percent.

DeCree said companies interested in a New York gaming license include Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International; Wynn Resorts Ltd.; Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has purchased and is rebranding The Mirage to a Hard Rock Hotel; Bally’s Corp., which operates the Strip’s Tropicana; and Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming.

“We are thrilled that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature have reached an agreement to allow the state to issue the available commercial casino licenses,” MGM President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in a Tuesday email. “We applaud their tireless efforts to help communities recover from the lows of this pandemic. MGM Resorts looks forward to responding to the anticipated request for applications and is excited by the opportunity to bring thousands of quality jobs and meaningful private investment to Westchester and the region.”

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts said Tuesday that the company is interested in entering the New York market and is awaiting the request for applications.

Other companies listed as interested in New York did not respond Tuesday to emailed requests for comment. Caesars Entertainment Inc., another big player in the Las Vegas market, also did not respond.

A New York law approved by voters in 2013 permits a total of seven casinos, including the three in the New York City area. Four already have been built in upstate New York.

Sen. Joe Addabbo, D-Queens, the senator who chairs the committee on racing, gaming and wagering, said two operators of existing casinos near New York City would likely have the inside track in the awarding of the new licenses.

Resorts World New York City, operated by the Genting Group of Malaysia, is attached to the Aqueduct Racetrack and opened in 2011 after the Legislature authorized slot machines to be allowed at racetracks in 2001.

In addition to slot machines, Resorts World New York City, which has a sister property Resorts World Catskills in New York as well as a Strip resort that has been opened about 10 months, has more than 6,500 slots and automated table games. The new license would permit live table games.

The Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway is operated by MGM Resorts International and also has slot machines and automated tables in a racino environment.

But because of the competitive bid process, there are no assurances that Genting or MGM would emerge with a license. Other companies with Southern Nevada ties are expected to vie for the license in a market that is expecting to generate $4.8 billion in gross gaming revenue among the three new licensed properties.

Las Vegas Sands officials have expressed interest in having a resort in New York, and in an interview with the Review-Journal last month, CEO Rob Goldstein again said Sands remains interested in the area. 

“New York is surrounded by gaming states and annually sees billions of dollars flowing from New Yorkers to the state coffers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut,” the company said in October. “If the state were to activate the three gaming licenses available for the New York City region it would undoubtedly attract significant interest, and ultimately, investment from interested parties like us.”

Sands executives have expressed their interest in New York since then in interviews and in some of the company’s earnings calls.

Potential casino sites for the three licenses include St. George on Staten Island; Times Square and on the banks of the East River in Manhattan; and Belmont Park in Elmont on Long Island, just east of the city limits.

The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, including Dr. Miriam Adelson, majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Las Vegas Sands President and COO Patrick Dumont.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.