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The Door is Open for Casino Gambling in New York City

New York’s state budget proposal allows for the licensing of three casinos in New York City. Let the bidding war commence.

We are going to see casinos in New York City. It is not a matter of if, but when. And where.

As of now, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, Times Square, Herald Square, and the top floors of Saks Fifth Avenue are all candidates to be the site of what might become the highest-grossing casino in the nation.

New York’s new state budget proposal includes provisions for licensing three casinos in the New York City area, and two big companies, Resorts World and MGM, have already said they will offer $500 million apiece, according to Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, head of the state’s Wagering Commission.

Pretlow’s comments came after New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a $216.3 million state budget on Tuesday that would open up the five boroughs to at least one casino.

Resorts World, which operates the “racino” at Aqueduct Racetrack, and MGM, which owns the Yonkers Raceway racino, have already told Pretlow that they are willing to bid half a billion dollars for licenses for those facilities.

“I told them that was going to have to be the floor,” Pretlow told Boardroom.

Other casino operators have let the Gaming Authority know that they are interested, going as far as to mention specific sites, Pretlow said, calling it a “win-win,-win” proposition for the state, gaming entities, and New York taxpayers.

“The best-case scenario is that could be up and running at Aqueduct within a week, but that is highly unlikely,” Pretlow said. “But the casino law is already in place, the folks running Aqueduct would have to shift personnel around so that they had enough dealers for table games, and many of the slot machines would be moved to the third floor.”

The budget proposal has a lot of moving parts and will not be voted on until March 31, so a more likely scenario would be the state putting a six-month timetable from the submission of bids to the actual opening of a brick-and-mortar site.

“If that becomes the case then we are looking at October or November,” Pretlow said.

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The casino news comes just a week-and-a-half after New York officially started allowing online wagers on sporting events, but not allowing for wagers on New York-based college teams or futures bets involving postseason award winners, much to the consternation of bettors who see the futures markets as the best opportunity to make a long-term score.

Hochul’s budget doubles down on the idea of the state collecting massive revenues from the gaming industry at a time when NewYork is flush with pandemic relief and tax revenues and is expected to have a balanced budget, barring something unforeseen.

New York also expects to reap more than $1.25 billion in new revenue from legal cannabis sales during the next six years, taxing cannabis products based on the percentage of THC they contain.

New York already has four licensed casinos operated by Native American tribes operating upstate, some in partnership with major gambling companies.

But as Pretlow says, the money is downstate.

The Saks Fifth Avenue idea was put forward in a private meeting prior to the pandemic, Pretlow said. The department store is located on Fifth Avenue one block from Rockefeller Center.

The 10-story building has landmark status, and Saks also operates out of a taller building next door.

Opening a casino in the building would target a high-end clientele and offer a high-stakes gambling climate.

But in order for that to happen, the state would need to grant a license, and because Hochul’s proposal limits the number of licenses to three, a bidding war would likely preclude such a proposal from coming to fruition.

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