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Queens casino plans in doubt as key lawmaker declares opposition

| By iGB Freelance
New York’s downstate casino project has taken another turn as State Senator Jessica Ramos has spoken out against Steve Cohen’s plans for a property at Citi Field in Queens.
Queens casino New York

Hedge-fund billionaire Cohen has set out plans for a development at Citi Field, the New York Mets’ stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The proposed $8bn development in partnership with Hard Rock International includes a new entertainment complex, a live music venue and a Hard Rock hotel alongside gaming facilities.

This would be supported by community investments including 20 acres of new park space, five acres of athletic fields and playgrounds, underpinned by a commitment to “climate-ready infrastructure”. 

Named Metropolitan Park, it would be built on a 50-acre plot of land, which is currently being used as the stadium’s parking lot.

However, Ramos has now taken a direct stand against the plans, according to Casino Reports

Ramos refusal could kill Cohen’s Queens casino

The Democrat, representing New York’s 13th District, says she will not introduce legislation that would downgrade existing parkland in Corona to facilitate its redevelopment for the casino. 

“We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space and recreation for the whole family,” Ramos said in a statement. “We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off.”

Ramos decried “the generations of neglect that have made so many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle” for a casino as the only way to spur a renewal of the area. This could prove a definitive blocker to the project, which requires Ramos to pass a parkland alienation bill, in order to give Cohen permission to build on a site that is technically city-owned parkland. 

Instead, Ramos proposes an alternative alienation bill “that strikes a balance”. It would allow Cohen and Hard Rock to build a convention centre and hotel, as well as doubling the proposed open green space – but no casino. 

“The parcel in question is in strategic proximity to LaGuardia Airport and allows for visitors and tourists to feed into our vibrant food scene while addressing the consequence of climate change in the area,” she said.

“Mr Cohen and Hard Rock would still make a profit, albeit less.”

Has the field for New York’s downstate casinos narrowed?

While the New York State Gaming Commission doesn’t expect to finalise the three downstate casino sites until late 2025, there are still plenty of operators jostling for position, with each facing their own difficulties.

Currently there are prospective sites across four boroughs including Cohen and Hard Rock’s Citi Field proposal and one in Yonkers.

The runners and riders

Two of the bidders, MGM Resorts and Genting Group, aim to repurpose existing facilities. MGM aims to transform the Empire City Casino – a video lottery racino – into a full-scale commercial resort, while Genting’s Resorts World NYC in Queens could undergo a similar transformation. 

The Chickasaw Nation is part of a consortium vying for a licence in Brooklyn’s Coney Island in partnership with Saratoga Casino Holdings and Thor Equities. Locals have already voiced opposition through community forums, however. 

In Manhattan, there are two prominent bidders; Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. Wynn’s site in Hudson Yards is considered particularly attractive, although again locals have raised concerns especially about adding more traffic to an already congested area. 

Caesars, meanwhile, has partnered Jay-Z’s Roc Nation for a site in Times Square, one of the busiest areas of New York City. 

Up in the Bronx, meanwhile, Bally’s Corporation is bidding to build at the former Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point. That may hinge on a shareholder battle for control of the business. K&F Growth Capital is looking to prevent Standard General from taking the operator private, proposing a more streamlined approach that would take it out of the mix for New York.

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