New York Names First Three Members of Casino Location Selection Panel

Posted on: October 4, 2022, 11:42h. 

Last updated on: October 4, 2022, 11:43h.

The first members of a panel that will ultimately decide where New York’s next three casinos were named on Monday, but there are still a few more steps that need to be taken before the Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB) can even consider possible candidates for licensure.

New York
The Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset from the Manhattan Bridge in New York City. The process to award three downstate casinos took another step Monday with the first three appointments to a five-member board that ultimately decides which companies receive the licenses that will be worth at least $500 million each. (Image: jonbilous/Adobe Stock Images)

At its Monday meeting, the New York State Gaming Commission approved the appointment of Quenia A. Abreu, Vicki L. Been, and Stuart Rabinowitz to the board. That move met the state’s Tuesday deadline of having a majority of the five-member board in place.

The board placements also start a 90-day clock to issue the request for applications (RFA) for the casino licenses. That document will cover detail aspiring applicants will need to include in their proposals, as well as deadlines for submissions and other key milestones.

But wait, there’s more. Before an application can even get to the GFLB, it’s got to get through a local board, called the Community Advisory Committee (CAC), and the zoning approval process. For New York City, the CAC will include appointees from Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams. It will also include the sitting state senator, state assembly member, city council member and the appropriate borough president.

Outside of New York City, the CAC will include the governor’s appointee, the appropriate county executive, the sitting state senator and assembly member, and the municipality’s highest elected official. For villages, that would be both the village mayor and the town supervisor.

Getting past the CAC requires support from two-thirds of its members. Once an application has received the necessary local approvals, the GFLB will then conduct its review for suitability.

The Gaming Commission has said that it does not expect any license awards until next year at the earliest.

The state has also created a website with information about the licensing process and how to contact the board.

Who are the Board Members?

To serve on the GFLB, members must be New York residents who do not hold public office or have a close relationship to someone who holds a gaming license.

They’re also required to have at least 10 years of experience in certain “fiscal matters,” according to the board’s website. In addition, they must also have a background in accounting, finance, economics, and commercial real estate. They may also have served as an executive in a large organization.

Abreu serves as the president and CEO of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, which she helped establish 20 years ago. The Dominican Republic native who grew up in New York City previously served as the director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

Been is a law and public policy professor at New York University. Her background includes studying the city’s land-use practices and writing about environmental issues. She also served as a clerk to US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

Rabinowitz retired last year after serving 20 years as the president of Hofstra University. Before that, he was the dean of the Long Island institution’s School of Law. He also was a co-vice chair of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

Both state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) and Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) told that they liked having Rabinowitz on the panel as he also served on the board that approved licenses for the four upstate casinos eight years ago.

“It is important that someone has familiarity with how this process works,” said Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing and Gaming Committee. “They can steer the newer members… it’ll reduce the learning curve for everyone else.”

Moving the Process Along

While the Gaming Commission has given an exact timeframe just yet for the selection process, Addabbo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, is hopeful for a process that goes as swiftly as the sports betting process went last year.

The quicker we get these applications in, the quicker the gaming commission and the (GFLB) get to do their work,” he said. “The quicker the state gets to realize the revenue for its people, the educational funds for its people, the jobs for its people, the addiction funding, and programs for its people. So again, we all benefit if this process moves along in an expedited manner.”

The GFLB will be the panel to determine the cost of the gaming licenses, which will be at least $500 million each. The Gaming Commission will determine the gross gaming revenue tax rates as part of the competitive bidding process, although casinos can propose a tax rate in their application, provided their proposed rates do not drop below 25% for slot machines and 10% for other gaming sources.

The process to award the three licenses started a year earlier than expected after the state legislature approved expediting it in this year’s budget. Proponents of the move, including Addabbo and Pretlow, said issuing the licenses would help rejuvenate the state’s economy as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and would help boost a leisure and hospitality sector that suffered significantly from the closures and other restrictions put in place to protect the public.

While there’s hope the process can move quickly, some people – including former New York Gov. David Paterson – believe it will become a drawn-out affair.

Competition Likely to be Fierce

It’s widely expected that the casino licenses will be awarded to projects in downstate New York, roughly defined as New York City, its northern suburbs, and Long Island.

Once the RFA is released, it’s widely expected that MGM Resorts International, which operates the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, and Resorts World, which operates a gaming facility at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, will be two of the applicants.  While they may be considered casinos, they offer video lottery terminals, which operate slightly differently than Las Vegas-style slot machines. Empire City and Resorts World also cannot offer live table games, nor can they have a retail sportsbook like full-fledged casinos.

Resorts World and MGM have touted their ability to quickly transform their properties into full-fledged casinos, which they say would help the state begin generating gaming revenues in an expedient manner.

However, several other entities are also expected to apply. One that has already been announced is Wynn Resorts, which is looking to develop a casino at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.

That project may run into some local resistance as Manhattan residents and some leaders have raised concerns about a casino in their borough.

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