New York City Council Green Lights Casino Zoning Changes

In a Thursday vote of 35 to 15, the New York City Council signed off on the “Gaming Facility Text Amendment,” which would allow for casino hotels to be constructed in select areas of the five boroughs.

New York Mayor Adams (D). On Thursday, the City Council approved his plan for zoning changes to accommodate casinos. (Image: John Minchillo/Associated Press)

That amendment was proposed by Mayor Eric Adams (D) last November. Under the changes proposed by the Adams Administration, gaming venues could be located in the city’s manufacturing districts and within nearly all commercial areas, with no barriers as to their size. The Council voted to approve the mayor’s plan.

Currently, casinos are not permitted uses within New York City zoning,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-District 28), who voted for the measure. “This text amendment would resolve this zoning conflict, while maintaining communities’ decision making authority on casino licenses within the state’s application process.”

The council vote is seen as potentially expediting what to do date has been a slow-moving process in terms of allowing the nine bidders to formally pitch their plans for three downstate casino permits. Current consensus states that New York regulators won’t award those licenses until late 2025, much to the dismay of gaming companies.

New York City Council Vote Helps, But Hurdles Remain

While the Thursday vote by the New York City Council is a move in the right direction in terms of the city realizing its casino ambitions, there are still hurdles to be cleared.

For example, Bally’s in the Bronx and Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International in Queens still need policymakers to alter the parkland designation for the properties on which they’re hoping to construct integrated resorts. Las Vegas Sands, which is hoping to build a casino hotel at the site of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, is grappling with litigation brought by Hofstra University.

Earlier this week, Sands executives expressed disappointment regarding the pace at which the New York casino process is moving with CFO Patrick Dumont saying the process lacks clarity and has created ample confusion.

All bids for the trio of downstate licenses must be approved by a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which will be comprised of six appointees by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Mayor Adams, and policymakers representing the areas in which gaming companies are considering casinos.

Bipartisan Opposition to Adams Plan

While the 35-15 vote indicates the mayor’s proposal made it through the Council with ease, there was bipartisan opposition to it with the pitch decried by both conservatives and progressives.

Council Member Kristy Marmorato (R-Bronx), who represents the area in which Bally’s is hoping to build a casino hotel, said she’s concerned that altering zoning laws for gaming companies could set a precedent in which other developers attempt to find loopholes in the city’s zoning regulations.

Kalman Yeger, a moderate Brooklyn Democrat, who represents Coney Island where Thor Equities wants to build a casino resort, said that gaming venues near schools and where families live amount to “bad policy.”

Of the 51 community boards in New York City, 19 opposed the plan approved by the Council while 30 declined to weigh-in on it.

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