Zoning Issues Further Delay Licensing Process for New York Casinos

Land Based Casinos Law & Politics Business
Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia

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Last Updated on 26th March 2024, 04:19 PM

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Zoning Issues Further Delay Licensing Process for New York Casinos

New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, is frustrated that it’s taking so long to open what will likely be the most lucrative casinos in the state. (Image: Lev Radin / Sipa US / Alamy)

The extended approval process for up to three downstate casinos in New York appears to be facing further delays, as the New York State Gaming Commission now wants zoning changes in New York City before moving forward.

Politico reported that the Gaming Commission made that indication last week, asking the New York City Council to approve a land use change that would be required for many casino projects to move forward.

The move adds yet another complication to the exhaustive process that has been the race for up to three downstate casino licenses in the state. 

Bidding Process Still on Hold without City Zoning Change

In 2022, the New York State Legislature passed a law that was designed to expedite the licensing process in the hopes that bidding on the three available slots would begin in 2023. That would likely have led to licenses being awarded sometime early in 2024. 

Instead, bidding has yet to begin. The Gaming Commission suggested last week that the bidding process won’t open until the citywide zoning change is approved.

At the very least, it appears that such a rule could come soon in the New York City. The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a change to the city’s zoning rules last Wednesday that creates a new review process for casino projects that couldn’t be reviewed until the Uniform Land Use Review process normally used in the city. The new rule passed by a 10-2 vote.

“This text amendment would avoid duplicating the state’s rigorous licensing process, which includes local representation on the CAC [Community Advisory Committee], while setting up a rational framework for consideration without our zoning,” CPC chair Dan Garodnick said in November.

Those in favor of the rule said it would allow New York City casino projects to compete on equal footing with those outside the city. But the two commissioners who opposed the rule suggested it was a way for casinos to get around longstanding rules for new construction.

“This is a vote to allow a backtrack for casinos to be build,” Commissioner Leah Goodridge said during debate on the project. “Casinos are going to be the type of proposals where a lot of people will want community input. So for me, I think that it is not beneficial to limit any type of community input by thereby limiting the review process.”

Even with the CPC approval, the City Council will still need to vote on it and approve it. And even when the rule passes, there are some proposals – including Steve Cohen’s idea to build a casino at Citi Field – that would fall outside the new rule. 

Delays Frustrate Downstate Casino Advocates, Bidders

The continued delays have frustrated casino proponents in the state. Chief among them is State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens), who chairs the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

“The concern I have is the fact that all the benefits that sit for these three licenses, things sit on the shelf collecting dust to us in the state and our residents are no good until the Gaming Commission starts that process,” Addabbo told reporters. “It’s becoming embarrassing that we can’t do these three licenses earlier.”

For now, those looking to make bids are still in the dark when it comes to how much longer the process would take. From the Gaming Commission’s perspective, the next step will be responding to a second round of questions from potential bidders – a process that has no firm timeline.

“Anybody who tells you that they know when these responses are going to happen, and what the timeline is going to be for this process entirely, is just lying,” an anonymous individual tied to one of the casino bids told Politico.

Meet The Author

16 Years
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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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