Last June 27, the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board brought stakeholders up-to-date on the issuing of three casino concessions located downstate. This announcement has significant implications for the future of gaming in New York City and its surrounding areas.

A brief history of the concession: in 2013, New York residents voted to amend the state constitution in order to permit the operation of commercial casinos. This vote then authorized a total of four casinos upstate and three casinos located downstate. However, the downstate casino concessions were 10 years delayed to allow the upstate casino properties to create their customer bases. But with the suspension on the downstate casino licenses now over, a bevy of interested casino developers have prepared their bids amounting to billions of dollars.

Many lawmakers in the state have pleaded with Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Gaming Facility Location Board to accelerate the process. It turns out that the licenses were meant to be awarded this year, but in March, the state agency said that the process would more than likely be delayed once again and start as late as 2025. This week, the Board gave guidance on when the much-awaited downstate licenses will be granted, which may not be welcomed by those wishing to get the resorts operating as soon as possible.

Timeline released for downstate casino concessions

The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board has released a comprehensive timeline for the much-anticipated downstate casino licenses. Applications for these licenses are due by the 27th of June, 2025, setting the stage for a competitive and transformative period for New York's gaming industry.

Every qualified bid will be assigned a six-person Community Advisory Committee comprising Governor Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams, and it will also include the relevant borough president, assemblyperson, state senator, and lastly, the city councilor. These committees play a crucial role, as every casino proposal must secure the endorsement of its respective CAC by the 30th of September, 2025.

Vicki Been, Chair of the Gaming Facility Location Board, emphasized the importance of this timeline, stating, "This timeline encompasses all legal requirements that potential bidders must meet before we may evaluate applications. This roadmap also gives communities ample opportunity to have their voices heard, establishes a level playing field among multiple competitors, and affords serious applicants the opportunity to participate in a lucrative and transformational process."

Following the submission of bids with CAC backing, the Board will spend the months of October and November reviewing the proposals. The winners will be announced by December 1, and the victorious casino bids must pay their $500 million license fees to the state by December 31, 2025.

In addition to CAC endorsement, casino applicants must complete various entitlement processes, including getting zoning signatures and land-use permits. The Board notes that extending the application deadline to June 27 of next year helps level the playing field for some bids still navigating local approvals for their projects.

The difficulties faced by several applicants

The Board states that there are at least four publicly known potential applicants "not currently able to avail themselves of the zoning change due to specific requirements not covered by the amendment, including mapping changes, grading, or revocable consent to construct over streets." In addition, the Board was recently advised by the New York City Department of City Planning that the four impacted firms expect to emerge from the zoning process by the end of June next year.

The Board also highlighted the importance of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. The SEQR is designed to identify any prospective harmful environmental effects of the actions, evaluate their significance, and propose different measures to mitigate their impacts. Applicants must substantially complete their respective environmental reviews by the end of June, 2025.

Leading players revealed

Among the frontrunners for these licenses are Genting and MGM Resorts, whose video lottery racinos - Resorts World in Queens and Empire City in Yonkers, respectively - are all set to become full-blown casinos featuring live dealer table games, sportsbooks, and slots, reminiscent of Las Vegas. But other notable companies vying for downstate licenses include big names such as Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock International, Bally's, Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment, and Mohegan.

The extended timeline grants these potential bidders the opportunity to address the complex requirements involved in obtaining the necessary approvals and completing environmental reviews. Needless to say, the competition for these downstate licenses is intense, with each bidder eager to secure a position in one of the most lucrative gaming markets in the country.

As the process progresses, stakeholders will have ample opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, ensuring that the development of these casinos will align with the interests of local communities and the state. The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board’s updated timeline provides a clear path forward for this transformational process, setting the stage for significant developments in the downstate gaming industry in the coming years.