Is Nassau County Set to Become The East Coast’s Gambling Capital?

Aamir Kamal
Michał Parzuchowski / Unsplash

All of the signs point towards New York overtaking New Jersey as the key gambling territory on the east coast of the USA.

The regulatory framework is developing quickly in NY, and there is a clear move towards liberalization.

How that manifests itself specifically in New York City remains to be seen – it’s unlikely that a resort-style landscape would be welcomed in the Big Apple. As such, a development in a neighboring area, such as Nassau County, might just be on the agenda.

It’s fair to say that 2021 has been a monumental year for gambling in New York, with a number of changes suggesting that lawmakers want to make up for the lost tourist revenue during the pandemic with a liberal approach to sports betting and casinos gaming.

Wagering on sports

Sports betting has actually been legal in New York since 2019, albeit at licensed venues such as racetracks and those casinos with a sportsbook.

However, a major breakthrough for the sector came in April when legislators approved the legalization of mobile sports wagering for those within NY’s territory.

The process is still ongoing because even though Governor Cuomo has signed off on the law changes that would allow sports betting to happen on mobile devices, a plan for which operators will deliver the platform – plus how and when – is yet to be confirmed. Interestingly, offshore firm Bovada has already been told to stop accepting bets from customers in the state.

Soon enough, details of the RFP provision will be revealed, and the picture will begin to look a bit clearer. However, it could still be months before a more significant movement is made. Naturally, there is a determination for the new law to come into force in time for the Super Bowl – something confirmed by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.

“You don’t want to miss out on another Super Bowl,” he said. “I think this would be a good benchmark for New York to see how we’re doing”. 

In a huge boost for the local economy, at least 50% of any revenue generated will be handed to the state of New York – presumably, that will then be pumped back into worthy causes across NY.

A digital future?

For anyone interested in playing their favorite casino games in Nassau County, the reality is that a hop and a skip across to NYC is the best port of call.

Here, there are a couple of big brand casinos to play at, including Resorts World and Foxwood’s Lounge, but as mentioned, the state is not yet legally geared up for mass casino gaming. At the moment, revenue is lost to New Jersey – a situation regulators in New York will surely want to rectify.

Given that mobile sports wagering has been given the green light, how long will it be before digital casino gaming is given the go-ahead too?

For now, online casino gaming is not allowed in New York, and should you want to play the likes of roulette, blackjack, poker and slots on your smartphone, tablet or computer, you’ll have to step across the border to the Garden State.

A wide range of operators are allowed to function in other US states, as well as online casinos in Canada and beyond. There is little doubt that authorities in New York are watching on with envy.

Of course, don’t expect any quick action on that front. There was a three-year gap between retail sports betting being legalized and motions passing for online wagering, so this is a long old slog of a process.

As such, expanding New York’s land-based casino infrastructure seems the most likely way that those in power will go.

Is Nassau on the radar?

It was just weeks ago that plans for an ambitious new casino project in New York City were rejected.

It has been confirmed that a major casino will be heading to downtown NYC. However, legislators would not be moved when the operators jostling for the contract – Bally’s, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands – tried to bring forward the completion date from 2023, despite the fact that Governor Cuomo had agreed to this.

Manhattan regulators are on record as stating, quite vehemently, that they don’t want a casino in the city, and a legislative sticking point – Cuomo did not want to divest decision-making power to the borough – means that the plan is effectively dead and buried until 2023.

That will cost an estimated $1.5m in license fees, while a number of new jobs that would have been created will also be put on the backburner for a couple of years.

There will be new casino properties in Yonkers and Queens in the near future, but those seeking to bring more gaming opportunities to New York will have to seek alternatives – leaving us to wonder if Nassau County is on the radar.

That said, a report published in the New York Post had one source claiming that ‘Nassau will be politically challenging’ as far as securing approval for a new casino is concerned, so there will be plenty of work needed behind the scenes if the County is to become a new gambling destination.

Alternative venues are being discussed. Willets Point in Queens, and a potential renovation around the Citi Field park, have been mentioned, as has a renovation of Belmont Park, while the St George district on Staten Island is another possible site for casino development.

Elsewhere, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has revealed plans for a casino property on their Long Island land, and that too could be ready for opening by 2023.

The fear is that those close to the city are going to miss out on what could represent an excellent opportunity. Of course, there are some social ills that come with the building of a new casino, but at a time when the state coffers have been hit hard by the pandemic, surely seeking alternative forms of revenue is a no-brainer decision?

What the implications will be for Nassau County remain unclear.

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