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

Delays in gaming license process may be win for casino bidders

Don’t place your bets just yet.

The New York State Gaming Commission is advocating a delay in the application process for downstate casino licenses, suggesting that bidders won’t have to submit applications until next year, leading to licensing decisions no earlier than the end of 2025.

That timeline would allow for the often complex and lengthy state environmental reviews and New York City land reviews to move forward throughout 2024, according to Gaming Commission executive director Robert Williams.

But community advisory committees, whose approval is essential to applicants, wouldn’t be formed until sometime next year. Those committees include members appointed by the governor, the county executive, the state senator and state assemblymember, and the locality’s senior official, such as a town supervisor. That means the committee’s makeup could be different since 2024 state legislative elections will take place before advisory committee members are chosen.

That new timetable would seem to help most potential casino license applicants, who are in various stages of trying to move forward on community support, zoning approvals and environmental analyses. It could provide more time for New York Mets owner Steve Cohen to get approval from the State Legislature that he needs to build on the Citi Field parking lot, more time for New York City sites to complete an oft-required full individual land review process, and more time for sites outside the city to complete state environmental reviews.

And it allows the city time to approve legislation that would allow gaming facilities in certain manufacturing or commercial districts.

On Long Island, it opens the door for Las Vegas Sands to move forward with its effort to offer up a casino resort at the Nassau Hub. A source close to Sands told The Point that the Gaming Commission’s latest timetable would make company executives feel “more than comfortable” that they could be on schedule to be able to apply by next year and finish the State Environmental Quality Review Act in time.

“I think we conceivably could be done with SEQRA by well in advance of mid-2025,” the Sands source said.

That’s particularly doable because Sands has decided to redo the county process — including approvals from Nassau County’s planning commission and legislature and new approvals of a lease between Sands and the county, the sources said. That would include a county-run SEQRA process, though sources said they hoped to use the work already started by the Town of Hempstead and by Sands’ own consultants, so that they’re not starting from scratch.

Sands’ decision came after a State Supreme Court judge voided the initial lease between the county and Sands last year. While the county has filed an appeal, there is no clear timetable yet for when that would be heard.

“We decided it is in our best interests and the community’s best interests and our stakeholders’ best interests to restart the process,” the source told The Point. “We can’t wait around for [the] appeal.”

The Gaming Commission’s new timetable, which has to be finalized by the Gaming Facility Location Board that is overseeing the application process, seems to help any applicant who has the wherewithal to withstand the extended timetable. It also could mean that some casino giants might temporarily dial down their extensive public relations and advertising campaigns — and perhaps even their use of consultants and lobbyists — until they need them again next year.

But it also means the state — and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — won’t see any money from casino license fees until at least the end of 2025 — if not the start of 2026. And it means that the state could be making licensing decisions just as Gov. Kathy Hochul is heading into another election year.

In that scenario, could casino decisions be impacted by where Hochul needs to shore up voter support?

Might be worth a bet.

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

Pencil Point

Take your time

Credit: The Boston Globe/Christopher Weyant

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Quick Points

How much time?

  • Over the weekend, Axios reported that President Joe Biden is still considering harsh executive orders to deal with the border crisis before the election in November. Because 38 months apparently is not quite enough time to decide whether harsh executive action is needed.
  • Tammy Murphy, wife of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, suspended her U.S. Senate bid saying she no longer wanted to engage in a “divisive and negative campaign” for the Democratic nomination. Left unsaid: It was divisive and negative at least partly because she is the governor’s wife and had received preferential treatment from the party.
  • Asked whether she would vote to save Speaker Mike Johnson after a motion to force him to vacate the position was filed by one of Johnson’s Republican colleagues, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “For any Democrat inclined, I don’t think we do that for free.” She didn’t say what the price would be.
  • Talking about the 2024 presidential election, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia said, “The more Donald Trump talks, the better our fortunes will be.” Finally, something Trump supporters and opponents can agree on.
  • After House Republicans mostly opposed a successful attempt to avoid a shutdown and Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to get rid of Speaker Mike Johnson, expelled former Rep. George Santos said he was leaving the Republican Party, calling it “embarrassing.” How bad do you have to be for George Santos to call you embarrassing?

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com

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