A rendering of the proposed Sands casino resort at the Nassau...

A rendering of the proposed Sands casino resort at the Nassau Hub. Credit: Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Daily Point

Betting on Hochul’s casino licensing outcome

The odds on whether Gov. Kathy Hochul will sign a bill to speed up the casino licensing process — which passed both houses of the State Legislature last week — may have shifted considerably after the congestion pricing debacle.

Multiple observers told The Point that the bill might be seen in a new light after Hochul paused the tolling plan, which was supposed to help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital plan. That need for MTA money, sources said, may change Hochul’s calculus on whether to sign it.

The bill would require all downstate casino license applications to be submitted by Aug. 31, and establishes a faster timetable for the creation of the “community advisory committees” that must greenlight any license application. The bill also requires all licensing decisions be made by Dec. 31, 2025 — though it sets parameters that could speed up that part of the process, too, depending on zoning and other issues.

“This bill has a much different meaning now,” State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who sponsored the measure, told The Point. “That [congestion pricing] decision has a ripple effect. It has ramifications. How do you plug that billion-dollar gap? Well, I have ideas. They’re attainable, they’re rational and they’re sustainable.”

At least $1.5 billion in casino license fees already has been earmarked for the MTA. Addabbo says that could rise to as much as $3 billion, as he expects the casino companies to bid up to $1 billion per license. A portion of the additional revenue from the completed casinos would also go to the MTA. Even with that, casino revenue likely wouldn’t make up the $15 billion in total revenue congestion pricing was supposed to generate.

There is a complication, however, with trying to use casino revenue to replace congestion pricing money. Casino revenue was slated to go into the MTA’s operating funds. Congestion pricing tolls, on the other hand, were expected to fund the MTA’s capital plan. But Addabbo noted that tweaks to the legislation could be made to shift funds from operating to capital as needed.

“Prior to the congestion pricing announcement, what was at stake was thousands of construction jobs and thousands of post-construction jobs sitting on a shelf collecting dust, along with the revenue, addiction programs and more,” Addabbo said. “Now … there’s a lot more at stake. We’ve got projects that will come to a screeching halt … Projects are going to be pulled if we don’t find funding that is critical for the future of public transportation going forward.”

The casino companies themselves seem to be on board with the legislation that would speed up the process, though it’s unclear whether they’ll lobby Hochul to sign it. While Hochul usually has until the end of December to sign or veto legislation, sources noted that this proposal would have to come to her desk more quickly in order to be “relevant,” given the bill’s Aug. 31 deadline.

“If she’s going to sign it, I hope she does it tomorrow, so all the applicants have time to finalize their applications,” one observer said.

A source in the governor’s office, meanwhile, said they’re reviewing the legislation and assessing a number of factors, including whether the proposal would actually expedite the timeline.

Others, however, said Hochul doesn’t need legislation to speed up the process. She oversees the state Gaming Commission, they said, and could seek a new timetable — an even faster one, if necessary — on her own.

What does all of this mean for Las Vegas Sands’ plans to bid for one of the licenses for the land around Nassau Coliseum?

“Sands will be ready to submit a very strong application whenever that time comes,” Sands senior vice president Ron Reese told The Point. “The work of the team on the ground has never stopped or stalled. It’s only increased, as has the amount of support for the project on all of Long Island.”

But there’s a long way to go. Nassau County still hasn’t taken any public steps to redo the process of securing a lease for Sands, though sources said in March that the casino giant had decided to repeat the county planning commission and legislative approvals process, as well as a county-run environmental review process. Other bidders, too, are facing complications, including, most publicly, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who cannot, as of now, use the Citi Field parking lot because it still is defined as parkland.

As all of that shakes out, Addabbo hopes to give the process a push forward.

“We’re ready here. I just need a little initiative across the board, including from the governor’s office,” he said.

As of Wednesday, Addabbo hadn’t heard anything as to whether Hochul would call for — or sign — the bill.

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

Pencil Point

A 'big' step

Credit: CQ Roll Call/R.J. Matson

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Reference Point

Worries about youth fitness

The Newsday editorial titled "Our Unhealthy Youngsters," from June 13, 1952.

The Newsday editorial titled "Our Unhealthy Youngsters," from June 13, 1952.

Newsday’s editorial board has always worried about the health of the nation — sometimes quite literally.

One such occasion came 72 years ago when the board wrote about a report on the nation’s physical and mental health by the Selective Service, the agency responsible for the military draft. That report, the board said, “ought to rock this country …”

The main finding in the June 13, 1952 piece called “Our Unhealthy Youngsters” was compelling: Some 45% of Americans of draft age “are mentally, physically or morally ill, or are rejected because of illiteracy.”

The board’s conclusion was succinct.

“This is, to put it mildly, an alarming situation,” the board wrote. “America prides itself on being a healthy and well-educated nation. And yet we are losing 45 per cent of our manpower — youngsters who ought to be pulling their load in military service — because exactly the reverse is true.”

The board noted some geographical specifics. For example, 63.2% of draft-age youth in South Carolina were rejected, the worst rate in the nation. Only 29.4% were rejected in New York, one of the nation’s best. The editorial board suggested some of those disqualified could be put to work in nonfighting tasks, noting that “a man with bum eyes can still heft a box or pound a typewriter,” and it proposed having the military branches pay for fixing, for example, bad teeth to make someone eligible for duty.

“For the long pull, national health being as bad as it is, how about a sound program to catch illnesses when they still are minor — and a physical conditioning program to get the kids in shape?” the board wrote, suggesting that the federal government “loan” money to states that needed to improve their education systems to raise literacy.

“All in all, it’s a tough problem, but we’d better solve it,” the board wrote. “We can’t fight another war with 45 per cent of our potential fighting force sick, crippled or unable to read or write. And neither can we build a sound country.”

The board’s concerns mirrored the national worry about a post-World War II nation getting soft. Mechanization was making work easier, and watching TV was sedentary. The issue resonated with former general and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who started the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956. But the program didn’t take off until his successor, John F. Kennedy, took on the challenge, reorganized the council, and devised a fitness curriculum that was adopted all over the country and led to improved fitness for America’s youth.

But the progress didn’t last. Reports from 2023 show 1 in 3 American kids aged 10 to 17 were overweight or obese, and 40.9% of Americans aged 20 to 44 were obese. As for literacy, barely one-third of high school seniors were proficient or advanced in reading, according to national study in 2021.

Our unhealthy youngsters, indeed.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells amanda.fiscina-wells@newsday.com

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