Steve Cohen, billionaire owner of the New York Mets, is in talks with Las Vegas Sands Corp. about a possible casino next to Citi Field, according to several people familiar with the discussions.
Talks are preliminary, according to people, who have been granted anonymity because the matter is private. The state is currently in the early stages of exploring for casino licensing in the New York City area, and any formal plan would still require a series of regulatory and legislative approvals.
“Steve thinks Willets Point needs to be dealt with for the long haul – it’s a mess,” a Mets spokesperson said, adding that the team’s priority remains to fill open baseball positions. “He’s heard a lot of ideas, and the Mets want to be a part of those conversations to make sure the interests of our fans and the local community are well represented.”
A representative for Las Vegas Sands did not respond to an email or voicemail.
Earlier this month, New York State gaming commission published a 14-page document information request to assess interest in three unassigned casino licenses in the lucrative downstate region of New York and surrounding areas. Seen as a precursor to the opening of a formal tendering process, responses are expected on December 10.
The sports and gaming industries have come together in recent years, following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to legalize sports betting. The league loves the NFL, NBA, and MLB, who fought this lawsuit for years, quickly embraced the new industry and the money that goes with it. The Washington Capitals recently became the first one great American team to have a sportsbook inside its original site, a sight that will probably become commonplace in the next few years. New York currently only allows legal sports betting in casinos.
The Mets own Citi Field, which opened in 2009 next to the site of the former Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. The team have a 99-year lease on the land, which includes lots adjacent to the stadium that are being considered for a potential casino, the people said.
Founded by the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) is one of the nation’s largest casino and resort operators, with eight properties and more than 50,000 employees worldwide. Its portfolio includes the Venetian Resort and Sands Expo in Las Vegas.
New York State legalized casino gambling almost a decade ago, with a licensing structure that prioritized communities in the upstate away from New York. A bidding process awarded four commercial casino licenses, leaving three more for possible future development.
The Gaming Commission request for information regarding these three unassigned licenses covers the “downstate” locations: New York, Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and three counties north of the city (Westchester, Rockland and Putnam ).
The New York Post reported earlier this month, casino operators spotted locations near Citi Field, near Belmont Park on Long Island (home to the New York Islanders racetrack and new arena) and the St. George neighborhood in Staten Island. He mentioned Bally’s Corp., Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and Genting, based in Malaysia, as groups that might express their interest.
New York has a number of racino and tribal casinos, as well as the four commercial casinos in the “upstate” region. These are the Del Lago Resort and Casino in Tire, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, Tioga Downs in Tioga, and Resorts World Catskills in Kiamesha Lake, all located at least 90 miles from New York City.
(The story has been updated to include a comment from a Mets spokesperson.)