Nassau legislators voted Monday to approve a 99-year lease that would allow Las Vegas Sands to develop a $4 billion casino resort on the Coliseum site. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Nassau County legislators, in a near unanimous vote late Monday, approved a 99-year lease agreement that would allow Las Vegas Sands to develop a $4 billion casino resort on the Coliseum site.

The vote was 17-1, with Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) in opposition. Democratic Minority Leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) recused himself, citing a conflict of interest involving the employment of a relative.

Dozens of people spoke for and against the company’s plans for the 72-acre county-owned site known as the Nassau Hub.

The proposed lease, announced in April and approved by the planning commission and Rules Committee, had appeared on track for the votes needed to advance it through the full legislature.

Sands will now need an environmental review, zoning approvals from the Town of Hempstead, support from community panels and advisory boards and a state gambling license for the development to move forward.

In recent weeks, some legislators pushed for more funding for communities near the site, prompting a lease amendment Sunday that provides an additional $25 million. Uniondale would get an extra $10 million, East Meadow $10 million and Hempstead $5 million.

Half the funding would be available once Sands breaks ground. The initial agreement would have provided $4 million annually after a casino opens.

Still included in the lease is a lump sum payment of $54 million to Nassau, regardless of whether anything is built on the site.

Sands CEO Robert Goldstein called the approval “an important step in our company’s efforts to secure a New York gaming license and ultimately develop a world-class hospitality, entertainment and gaming destination.”

"We have held over 300 community meetings and are proud of the widespread coalition we have built with our new neighbors across Long Island,” Goldstein said. “We are grateful for the trust they have placed in us and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the community."

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) urged legislators to consider the current situation of the Coliseum site, which he described as “a 72-acre parking lot and an obsolete arena.”

“The most important thing [the lease] does is give Sands an opportunity to apply for a gaming license,” Nicolello said. "We have tried and failed for 30 years to develop the property.”

Maurice Chalmers, director of the county’s Office of Legislative Budget Review, said revenue from the Coliseum was $23.7 million over the last decade.

“To put this into perspective, the $54 million (lump sum payment) is 2.3 times the amount the county collected in the last 10 years,” he said.

More than 100 people signed up to speak, with those representing organized labor, construction and trades groups, various chambers of commerce and advocates of African American and Hispanic businesses supporting the proposal.

Former Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, as well as former longtime Republican Nassau Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow endorsed the project.

Many opponents, including residents of Garden City, Uniondale, East Meadow and Hempstead, said they were not opposed to developing the Nassau Hub but do not want a casino. Some asked for a voter referendum.

“You have to do more due diligence on this lease agreement. Please press the pause button,” said Rich Catalano, an accountant from Garden City.

Bruce Chester, deputy mayor of the Village of Garden City, called the lease “a short-term fix that will create long-term problems.”

Republicans, who hold a 12-7 majority in the legislature, delivered a resounding victory to the administration of County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who had been in discussions with Sands since he was elected to office in November 2021. 

“The overwhelming bipartisan approval of lease terms with the Sands by the County Legislature affirms that Nassau County has made the right decision," Blakeman said in a statement.

The proposed resort would have hotel rooms, ballrooms and conference spaces, a live entertainment venue, celebrity-chef restaurants and a health club and day spa. Sands estimates it would generate $2 billion annually.

A state gaming license would allow traditional Vegas-style table gambling, such as blackjack and poker, in addition to slot machines and video gambling.

In a report released last week, the county’s Office of Legislative Budget Review said the proposal represented “a conundrum.”

“Community preferences, wants and concerns need to be weighed against the overall fiscal benefit to the county, as the project represents a tremendous opportunity that needs to be considered in order to maintain the county’s financial stability,” the report said.

Nassau County legislators, in a near unanimous vote late Monday, approved a 99-year lease agreement that would allow Las Vegas Sands to develop a $4 billion casino resort on the Coliseum site.

The vote was 17-1, with Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) in opposition. Democratic Minority Leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) recused himself, citing a conflict of interest involving the employment of a relative.

Dozens of people spoke for and against the company’s plans for the 72-acre county-owned site known as the Nassau Hub.

The proposed lease, announced in April and approved by the planning commission and Rules Committee, had appeared on track for the votes needed to advance it through the full legislature.

Sands will now need an environmental review, zoning approvals from the Town of Hempstead, support from community panels and advisory boards and a state gambling license for the development to move forward.

In recent weeks, some legislators pushed for more funding for communities near the site, prompting a lease amendment Sunday that provides an additional $25 million. Uniondale would get an extra $10 million, East Meadow $10 million and Hempstead $5 million.

Half the funding would be available once Sands breaks ground. The initial agreement would have provided $4 million annually after a casino opens.

Still included in the lease is a lump sum payment of $54 million to Nassau, regardless of whether anything is built on the site.

Sands CEO Robert Goldstein called the approval “an important step in our company’s efforts to secure a New York gaming license and ultimately develop a world-class hospitality, entertainment and gaming destination.”

"We have held over 300 community meetings and are proud of the widespread coalition we have built with our new neighbors across Long Island,” Goldstein said. “We are grateful for the trust they have placed in us and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the community."

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) urged legislators to consider the current situation of the Coliseum site, which he described as “a 72-acre parking lot and an obsolete arena.”

“The most important thing [the lease] does is give Sands an opportunity to apply for a gaming license,” Nicolello said. "We have tried and failed for 30 years to develop the property.”

Maurice Chalmers, director of the county’s Office of Legislative Budget Review, said revenue from the Coliseum was $23.7 million over the last decade.

“To put this into perspective, the $54 million (lump sum payment) is 2.3 times the amount the county collected in the last 10 years,” he said.

More than 100 people signed up to speak, with those representing organized labor, construction and trades groups, various chambers of commerce and advocates of African American and Hispanic businesses supporting the proposal.

Former Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, as well as former longtime Republican Nassau Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow endorsed the project.

Many opponents, including residents of Garden City, Uniondale, East Meadow and Hempstead, said they were not opposed to developing the Nassau Hub but do not want a casino. Some asked for a voter referendum.

“You have to do more due diligence on this lease agreement. Please press the pause button,” said Rich Catalano, an accountant from Garden City.

Bruce Chester, deputy mayor of the Village of Garden City, called the lease “a short-term fix that will create long-term problems.”

Republicans, who hold a 12-7 majority in the legislature, delivered a resounding victory to the administration of County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who had been in discussions with Sands since he was elected to office in November 2021. 

“The overwhelming bipartisan approval of lease terms with the Sands by the County Legislature affirms that Nassau County has made the right decision," Blakeman said in a statement.

The proposed resort would have hotel rooms, ballrooms and conference spaces, a live entertainment venue, celebrity-chef restaurants and a health club and day spa. Sands estimates it would generate $2 billion annually.

A state gaming license would allow traditional Vegas-style table gambling, such as blackjack and poker, in addition to slot machines and video gambling.

In a report released last week, the county’s Office of Legislative Budget Review said the proposal represented “a conundrum.”

“Community preferences, wants and concerns need to be weighed against the overall fiscal benefit to the county, as the project represents a tremendous opportunity that needs to be considered in order to maintain the county’s financial stability,” the report said.

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