A rendering of the luxury entertainment and casino destination on the Nassau...

A rendering of the luxury entertainment and casino destination on the Nassau Coliseum property proposed by Las Vegas Sands Corp.  Credit: The Sands Corp.

Las Vegas Sands plans to seek tax breaks from Nassau County to support the company’s $4 billion entertainment and casino complex planned for the Coliseum site in Uniondale, a Sands representative with knowledge of the situation said on Tuesday.

The development has won the support of County Executive Bruce Blakeman and 17 of the 19 members of the County Legislature. But many hurdles remain before a casino can open, including zoning approvals by Hempstead Town and winning one of three downstate gambling licenses from New York State in what has become an intense competition among gaming companies.

The tax aid that Sands would seek could include both a sales-tax exemption on the purchase of construction materials, equipment and furnishings and a reduction in the mortgage recording tax, according to the company representative who requested anonymity.

Sands also would make payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to the county, school district, Hempstead Town and other taxing jurisdictions.

The Coliseum site is exempt from property taxes because it’s owned by the county, and the arena’s current operator doesn’t make PILOT payments, the Sands representative said.

Sands “will seek certain financial assistance from the IDA at the right moment when we are legally able to do so,” the representative said in an interview.

“We’ve had no discussions with the IDA about this at all,” the representative said. “However, whatever agreement that we structure with the IDA will certainly be better [for the taxing jurisdictions] as opposed to the present day where they receive $0 [in PILOTs].”

Over the past eight years, the IDA has provided tax aid on multiple occasions to multiple operators of the Coliseum.

The IDA took title to the arena in 2015, when the agency granted nearly $4.5 million in tax breaks to developer Bruce Ratner for renovations to the arena. The aid consisted of a sales-tax exemption of up to $3.37 million on the purchase of construction materials and equipment and up to $1.1 million off the mortgage-recording tax. 

State records show $2.3 million of the sales-tax exemption was used in 2016. Attorneys familiar with the deal said on Tuesday that some or all of the mortgage-tax exemption was used.

Separately, Ratner, then-executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos. in Brooklyn, had proposed a 338,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex to be built on the arena’s parking lots. The complex was never constructed.

In 2018, the IDA granted a sales-tax exemption on the purchase of materials for additional upgrades to the Coliseum. The project allowed the New York Islanders to resume playing some games in their former home while UBS Arena was being built in Elmont.

State records show $2.9 million of that sales-tax exemption was used in 2019.

A year later, the IDA board approved transferring the tax incentives from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, which held the Coliseum lease, to the lender who had financed the arena’s renovations: Nicholas Mastroianni II and his company, U.S. Immigration Fund in Jupiter, Florida.

On Tuesday, the IDA board unanimously approved transferring the lease from Mastroianni to Sands. The lease expires in 2050.

The vote during the seven-minute meeting clears the way for Sands to take over operation of the Coliseum.

The IDA’s action doesn’t include additional tax breaks, according to Mastroianni’s attorney, Peter L. Curry, and Sands’ attorney Daniel J. Baker. Baker said the breaks tied to the existing lease have been exhausted.

Blakeman, who appointed five of the six current IDA board members, said their vote “demonstrates our strong commitment to bringing the finest hotel, entertainment center and casino in the world to Nassau County.”

Blakeman recently reached an agreement with Sands for a separate, 99-year lease on the Coliseum that includes upfront payments to Nassau and others. That lease likely would have to be approved by the IDA board if it awards tax breaks to Sands, according to Christopher Boyle, a Blakeman spokesman.

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