Staten Island President Wants Borough to Bet on Casino, Suggests ‘Wheel’ Site

The odds of Staten Island receiving one of New York’s three forthcoming downstate casino licenses aren’t exactly good. But Borough President Vito Fossella believes pursuing a gaming concession is nonetheless a worthy bet for the community.

Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella announces his support of a casino resort during a press conference on September 26, 2022. New York has three casino licenses allocated for the downstate region. (Image: Staten Island Advance)

New York legalized as many as seven Las Vegas-style commercial casinos through legislation passed in 2013. Four casinos were allocated for upstate, with the remaining three set aside for downstate — defined as New York City’s five boroughs, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.

The 2013 legislation included a 10-year moratorium on the three downstate casinos. As a result, only racinos, which offer video lottery terminals and electronic table games, operate downstate. In New York City, the two racinos are Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway and Resorts World New York City in Queens.

It’s largely expected that Empire City and Resorts World will receive two of the three downstate casino permits when they’re issued sometime next year. That leaves only one coveted gaming license remaining for the New York City region.

‘New York Wheel’ Targeted

Fossella thinks Staten Island should be strongly considered by developers for the location of a downstate casino.

The borough president says Staten Island doesn’t currently have legal in-person gambling other than buying lottery tickets. Fossella also believes the site of the failed “New York Wheel” attraction would be a most ideal setting.

The “Wheel” was a proposed 630-foot-tall Ferris wheel that was to be located adjacent to the Empire Outlets shopping complex in the St. George neighborhood. First envisioned in 2012, the nearly $1 billion undertaking never came to realization due to the lack of funding and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refusing to endorse city bonds for the project.

The vacant site, Fossella says, could become the future home of a casino.

Just envision a casino here, perhaps a hotel in the likes of Mohegan Sun [in Connecticut] where people can come on a day like today and enjoy the views, enjoy the vistas. Just enjoy what’s behind us,” the borough president told reporters with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Fossella is encouraging casino operators interested in making a play for a downstate gaming license to consider his borough.

“We would love for folks, casino operators who are evaluating and doing their due diligence, to come and take a visit,” the borough president concluded.

Odds Long

If MGM and Genting, which respectively operate Empire City and Resorts World, claim two of the downstate casino licenses at a cost of $500 million each, the bidding for the remaining concession will be intense.

New York real estate developer Jeff Gural, who owns Tioga Downs Casino Resort upstate and the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, believes Queens is the front-runner for the remaining casino license.

Gural said last month that New York Mets billionaire owner Steve Cohen and the team’s Citi Field in Queens are the odds-on favorite for the casino opportunity. Cohen, worth an estimated $17.5 billion by Forbes, is reportedly fielding casino partnerships, with Hard Rock International rumored to be the preferred development partner to date.

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