A state representative from Queens on Wednesday filed a bill in the New York Legislature that would allow for land around the New York Mets’ Citi Field to be reclassified so a casino could be built where a parking lot sits now.
The bill, HB 5688, would change the status of the land, which is classified as parkland under a 1939 law, and allow it to be developed. The move would play into the hands of Mets owner Steve Cohen’s hopes to build a casino in New York City.
The property is currently part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and is designated as overflow parking for Citi Field. Cohen has been eyeing one of three downstate casino licenses that will allow developers to put brick-and-mortar casinos in New York City.
Seven retail casinos are legal in the state via a 2013 constitutional amendment, with four already operating in upstate locations, and the state has recently opened the bid process for three licenses earmarked for the New York City area. The Gaming Facility Location Board opened the bid process in January.
The state also legalized digital sports betting in April 2021, and nine platforms are now live in the state.
The end game for all involved in digital sports betting or casino development is the idea that New York state will eventually also legalize online casino gambling. There is currently a bill put forth by Sen. Joe Addabbo to legalize iCasino, but Addabbo told US Bets this month that it’s unlikely to happen in 2023. Addabbo remains optimistic about the chances for online casino legalization in the future.
Top players vying for license
According to the New York Post, Cohen has discussed partnering with Hard Rock on a retail casino, and he is supporting a newly proposed 25,000-seat soccer venue for New York FC near Citi Field as a positive development to further his casino plan.
Multiple developers are hoping to take advantage of the new casino licenses that will be available in New York City. There have been proposals for casinos everywhere from Times Square (Caesars) to the top of the Saks Fifth Avenue Store to Coney Island (Chickasaw Nation). Besides Caesars, big-name casino companies including Las Vegas Sands (Nassau Coliseum) and Bally’s (Trump Golf Links) are in the mix.
Stakeholders expect two of the licenses to go to existing horse racetracks that have video gaming terminals at Yonkers and Aqueduct, meaning that only one license will be available to others hoping to cash in. The license fee for a New York City casino is $500 million and there is also a $500 million capital investment required. Licenses would be valid for up to 10 years.
As to the Citi Field property, the bill put forth by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry would require the city of New York to “discontinue the use as parkland and alienate” the land. It would also require that the city earmark new parkland that has a market value “equal to or greater” than the land adjacent to Citi Field. Should the bill pass, the Citi Field property would have to be developed within 15 years.