As the first quarter of 2024 unfolds, the anticipation surrounding the allocation of downstate casino licenses in New York wanes, casting shadows of doubt on their issuance within the year. The concrete jungle of New York City, witnessed by the timeless buzz of Times Square, remains a potential host for the gaming expansion, yet the city’s gears turn all too slowly. Circumstances now indicate that the awaited decisions on the licenses may not grace the headlines until the twilight of 2025.

The very heart of the matter pulses within the chambers of the New York Gaming Commission (NYGC), where Executive Director Robert Williams vocalized the concerns hindering the process. The pivotal 30-day application window for gaming companies to stake their claims on the licenses hangs in limbo—inaccessibly held aloft by the city’s need to revise zoning laws, enabling the establishment of at least one casino within the sprawling five boroughs. This legislative labyrinth must be navigated expeditiously, yet forecasts predict that the journey may consume the better part of the year, signaling no definitive outcomes until the waning days of 2025.

The horizon seemed brighter last November, when Mayor Eric Adams launched a zoning text amendment aimed at accommodating gaming establishments across the boroughs—a beacon of progress. However, an arduous trek lies ahead, with no less than 10 additional milestones ensconced in the city’s bureaucratic framework that must be successfully traversed before his vision materializes.

“Staff believes the timeline accommodates the existing statutory requirements… and allows sufficient time for local zoning approvals, which will enable the best, most comprehensive plans for commercial casino development,” Williams assured the NYGC board, maintaining a vision of meticulous preparation over hasty execution.

Beneath the city’s skyline, the industry’s pulse quickened with hopeful aspirations that the state might catapult the bidding window open before the summer’s zenith. Unfortunately, these expectations are now dampened, as that timeframe trickles out of reach.

Skeptics amid industry watchers and lobbyist circles, tempered by wisdom and experience, had already braced for a 2025 debate, pre-emptively citing the inevitable snarl of bureaucratic red tape and additional complexities that often accompany such expansive undertakings.

Governor Kathy Hochul, weaving her budget for the fiscal year with prudent foresight, conspicuously omitted potential revenue from casino applications and licensing fees. This tactful omission from Albany’s financial blueprint supports Williams’s conjecture, aligning state expectations with the 2025-26 fiscal agenda.

Compounding the quandary of an uncertain timeframe, the gaming contenders themselves await legislative amendments, specifically realignments of parkland designations critical to the fruition of their ventures. Steve Cohen alongside Hard Rock International in Queens, as well as Bally’s in the Bronx, find their aspirations tethered to this requisite change—a change also echoed in the endeavors of Las Vegas Sands in Nassau County, whose ambitions are further entangled in the web of litigation spun by opposition, including an involved Hofstra University.

Despite these encumbrances, there glimmers a duo of contenders that could readily throw their hats into the ring should the bidding war ignite imminently: MGM Resorts International with Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York in Queens. The latter, entrenched within one of the five boroughs, underscores the significance of a geographical foothold that Albany and municipal policymakers cannot afford to overlook—for it promises a bounty in tax revenues, should Manhattan enter the gaming arena.

Awaiting in the wings, titans such as Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts bide their time, their aspirations for opulent casino hotels in Manhattan poised to soar with the coming of the bidding process. In the grand tapestry of New York’s gaming future, the question lingers not on ambition or potential but on timing. As the events unfold, the city that never sleeps may find its dreams of casino lights momentarily deferred, yet eternally undimmed.

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Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson, a Senior Editor and respected voice in iGaming and sports, brings over a decade of journalism experience with a focus on digital gaming and cryptocurrency. Starting in sports analysis, he now leads a team of writers, delivering insightful and advanced content in the dynamic world of online gaming. An avid gamer and crypto-enthusiast, Mark's unique perspective enriches his professional analysis. He's also a regular speaker at industry conferences, sharing his views on the future of iGaming and digital finance. Follow his latest articles and insights on social media.


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