NYSGC Chair: Will Not Play Favorites for Downstate Casino Licenses

NYSGC Chair: Will Not Play Favorites for Downstate Casino Licenses
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Monday’s New York State Gaming Commission meeting featured a light agenda, but Chair Brian O’Dwyer had more than a few things to say.

The latter half of the 20-minute meeting featured O’Dwyer’s comments on his relief that colleges are ending marketing deals with sports betting operators, NYSGC Executive Director Robert Williams’ role in negotiating a new state gaming compact with the Seneca Nation and the need to re-examine the state’s relationship with the New York Racing Association in the wake of $455 million loan approved by state lawmakers to renovate and modernize Belmont Park.

But the most noteworthy comments came toward the end of O’Dwyer’s remarks about the selection process for the three downstate New York casino  licenses, for which the state is seeking applications. No one is paying attention, he said, to his “repeated” statements that there will be no preferred candidates for the licenses, which will go for at least $500 million apiece.

“This commission is dedicated, passionately dedicated, to ensuring that when we award the licenses for the three new casinos that, nobody has a leg up, nobody is in front, and no particular influences are going to bear on the ultimate decision of the site selection committee and ultimately of this commission,” O’Dwyer said. “Despite the numerous, numerous articles that are in the paper and the people and rumors around . . . that everyone comes to this process exactly the same way.”

O’Dwyer: ‘A Lot Of Disappointed Entities’

The downstate casino licenses were included in the New York State Budget passed last year, a year ahead of schedule, due to state officials wanting to raise revenues and spur growth in hospitality and construction jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the build-up to that vote, some state leaders touted Yonkers Raceway, home to MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino, and Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, home to Resorts World New York City, as likely sites to receive licenses. Currently, those facilities are home to video lottery terminal racinos, which operate differently from Las Vegas-style slot machines.

Receiving full-fledged casino licenses would allow Empire City and Resorts World to add slots and live-dealer table games, and since those properties already have a presence in the New York City area, they could theoretically make the conversion quicker than others can build new, meaning the state would start receiving casino tax revenues earlier.

Even with these three bids to come for retail, there is currently no legislation for New York City online casinos

MGM and Resorts World are expected to face significant competition for the available licenses. Among the interested bidders are Caesars Entertainment, which is part of a bid for a Times Square site, and Las Vegas Sands, which wants to build one in Nassau County on Long Island. Other reported proposals target other sites in Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn and Citi Field in Queens.

All bids must first receive two-thirds support from a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), a five- or six-member board of representatives from the proposed site’s location, before state officials can consider the application.

“Ultimately, there will be a lot of disappointed entities and people because, obviously, that’s what happens (when the licenses are awarded), but I want everybody to leave this process, as important as it might be, with the knowledge and the understanding that this commission has conducted this process with transparency and fairness,” O’Dwyer said.

Next Steps in Casino License Process

The commission released the request for applications on Jan. 3. It set a Feb. 3 deadline for the first round of questions from applicants. Last month, Williams said MYSGC staffers were still in the process of answering more than 600 questions submitted by interested entities.

Once those questions have been answered, the commission will open another 30-day window for additional questions.

After the CAC, the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board will consider the application, with the NYSGC having the final say on whether an applicant receives a license.

It’s uncertain when the commission might make its rulings on applications.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.