Hard Rock CEO In A New York State Of Mind

Competition for upcoming New York casino license could be intense, but Jim Allen is unfazed
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Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen is an Atlantic County, N.J., native who got his first job at an Atlantic City casino more than 40 years ago.

So for Allen, the annual East Coast Gaming Congress in that city is for him both a homecoming and a chance to make news.

Allen did it again on Tuesday, promising a conference audience at Harrah’s that his company “will 100 percent be submitting” a preliminary bid for one of three New York City-area casino licenses ahead of a Dec. 10 deadline set by the New York State Gaming Commission.

“We have been working on it for years — the date has been known for seven years,” Allen said, referring to a 2013 law that banned would-be casino operators in the New York City region from gaining state approval for at least seven years after the first of four upstate casino licenses was given the go-ahead.

That moratorium expires in December 2022, and the commission last week elected to put out a “request for information” from potential bidders to gain a preliminary sense of the level of interest.

“Respondents to this RFI should not anticipate award of a contract; this is an information gathering process only,” the commission’s 13-page notice reads.

The next steps in the process

The commission is obligated to report results of the RFI to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature by mid-2022.

The three licenses can be awarded within New York City’s five boroughs, Long Island, and/or Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties.

There is widespread belief in the national gaming industry that one license will go to Yonkers Raceway’s Empire City Casino, which currently has thousands of slot machines and video poker terminals but none of the live-dealer table games or sports betting that the upstate commercial and tribal casinos offer.

The other “racino” in the region is Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, and that site also is considered likely to gain a full-fledged casino license.

So NY Online Gambling asked Allen Tuesday if he believes that, realistically, he is competing for only a single available casino license.

“We don’t know,” Allen said. “Obviously, the state will decide whether they are going to convert the two [racinos]. But certainly we think that there is a great opportunity.”

Commission has lots of questions

Among the most notable of the numerous questions listed by the commission in its RFI are:

“Should there be a facility size requirement, or should the expected market determine size?”

“Should there be a minimum dollar figure required to be invested? If so, how should this dollar figure be established and verified?”

“Should the State seek an upfront license fee? If so, how should this fee be set?”

“What taxation rates should be imposed for table games, slot machines and other gaming activities?”

“What is a reasonable timeline for issuance, review, license award and gaming facility development?”

Hard Rock Hotel NYC Is On The Way

Allen also told the gaming congress audience about Hard Rock’s new 36-story, 446-room hotel that he said will open in Manhattan early next year.

“This is when you know we have lost our minds,” Allen quipped. “We built a brand new hotel in Times Square. We don’t necessarily think we’re going to make any money, but it’s going to be gorgeous. … We knew that to be a respected lifestyle hotel company, we needed to be in the New York City market.”

Could that location be home to a casino as well?

New York City politics could make that concept a challenge.

While Wynn Resorts, Bally’s, and Las Vegas Sands are among the Hard Rock rivals reported to be likely to bid for a Big Apple casino, a number of Manhattan elected officials adamantly oppose the idea of a casino in their borough.

Photo: Shutterstock

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