Long Island checks a lot of boxes as a strong landing spot for one of the three downstate casinos the state is looking to license in the New York City area by the end of the year.
It has plenty of customers, for one thing, with more than 7 million people occupying its four counties. One of those counties, Suffolk, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the area, has a per capita income of greater than $100,000, so that checks the “expendable income” box.
Along with much of the New York City area, Long Island is served by excellent public transportation, with trains, ferries, and subway cars all potential routes to a Las Vegas-style gambling parlor there. And yet, most observers seem to view Long Island as a longshot to land the third and final downstate license, since MGM’s property in Yonkers and Resorts World’s racino property at Aqueduct seem like locks given their massive headstarts.
“Politics get really hairy on just about everything on Long Island,” Bronx Assemblywoman Amando Septimo told NY Online Gambling in May. “Whoever wants to do that, it’s their job — and more power to them.”
Septimo, it should be noted, has her own dog in this fight — namely her plan to bring one of the downstate casinos to the Hunts Point neighborhood in the South Bronx.
Jake’s 58 could prove pivotal
One potential Long Island contender is Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in Suffolk County. But thus far, Jake’s 58 hasn’t indicated that it’s looking to expand into table games or booking sports bets.
The Islandia gaming venue has two of the advantages enjoyed by the Resorts World property in Queens, namely a preexisting hotel and video-lottery terminals — more than 2,000 of them in all, or roughly 10% of the state’s total. Jake’s 58 has come a long way considering its parent company, Suffolk County OTB, was in Chapter 9 bankruptcy just a few years ago.
Either way, Jake’s 58 could exert its influence in any efforts by Long Island entities to land one of the casinos. If it decides to bid for one of the licenses, which will cost a minimum of $500 million each, it could have an inside track given the roughly $24 million in taxes it paid to the state last year. On the other hand, it could also throw its weight behind blocking a full-scale casino in Long Island since, up until now, it has enjoyed its place as the exclusive VLT establishment in Suffolk and Nassau counties, which together total more than 3 million people.
This spring, New York’s legislature approved the licensing of the three downstate casinos as part of a $220 million state budget. Four commercial casinos already are in operation in upstate New York. The closest commercial casino to New York City is the Resorts World Catskills property, about 100 miles north of the city.
These upstate commercial resorts are in addition to seven tribal casinos in the state. The three downstate casinos could be located in the lower Hudson Valley, on Long Island, or in one of New York City’s five boroughs, including Manhattan.
The New York State Gaming Commission will oversee the licensing under a competitive bidding process. In New York City, a community advisory committee will be tasked with helping identify locations.
Shinnecock plans moving forward
The Shinnecock Tribe of eastern Long Island was among 31 entities that responded to the state gaming commission’s request for information in January that was meant to gauge interest in opening Class III gaming facilities, which are full-fledged casinos with live dealers.
That development came nearly a year after Shinnecock leaders announced their plan to build a Class II gaming facility – limited to slot machines and electronic gaming tables – on tribal territory in Southampton. Like Jake’s 58, any Shinnecock move into Class III gaming could give the tribe a leg up on competitors in other parts of the downstate area that have no gambling track record. State Sen. Joe Addabbo has said existing VLTs could convert to full-scale casinos within a year, while it will take up to five years for new construction of any other potential downstate casino.
With two potential strong landing spots and plenty of advantages other areas can’t match, Long Island will remain a contender in the downstate casino discussion. But before they can find the way, they might need to summon the will.