Bally’s Completes Trump Golf Links Lease Purchase, Plans Bronx Casino

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Bally’s casino chain has acquired the lease for the Trump Golf Links Ferry Point in the Bronx from the Trump Organization for an undisclosed fee. The Rhode Island-based operator plans to retain the business as a golf course. But it also wants to build a potential New York brick & mortar casino venue on the site.

The lease transfer has been with the New York City Parks Department to sign off on since May. Comptroller Brad Lander signed off on the deal late last week.

The Trump Organization’s association with the Bronx golf course has been a topic of contention since Trump’s controversial presidency in 2016. The city-owned golf course, adorned with the massive rock-and-grass formation spelling out Trump Links, has been a prominent sight for drivers crossing the East River on the Whitestone Bridge since around that same time.

The Trump Organization had secured a 20-year lease for the golf course in 2015. However, former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to terminate this lease. He cited the 2021 Capitol riot and Trump’s general contentious reputation as a reason that the golf course wasn’t attracting as many customers as it could. This led to a legal battle, with a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruling in 2022 that the termination was wrongful.

Now, with this new deal, Donald Trump’s name will be removed from the golf course. Bally’s plans to rename the site to Bally’s Links, removing the Trump Links name and signage, as well as intending to build a casino venue on the former golfing clubhouse.  

Bally’s Big Bet

Bally’s is betting on this property to secure a coveted gaming license in New York City. The lease transfer is reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars. But the casino chain eventually intends to purchase the 17 acres of land on which the golf course sits.

The highly visible location of the golf course, with its proximity to a major highway and an estimated 40 million drivers annually using the Whitestone Bridge, makes it a prime spot for a casino.

Bally’s intends to build the casino venue on the former Trump Links clubhouse, which the Trump Organization built for $10 million in 2019.

As part of its attempt to woo local residents and politicians for the plan, Bally’s has also said it plans to reduce visitor fees for the course (currently around $200 per time) and build a new road tunnel and shuttle bus to connect visitors to the site.

However, the current lease is only for another 20 years. Bally’s wanted an 80-year contract, but was denied that by the Parks Department. That could prove a stumbling block for the casino project, unless Bally’s is willing to stump up the cash to outright buy the site.

Defacing City Parkland

The Trump Organization is set to make a significant amount from this deal, even if the full amount is not disclosed.

Trump secured the site in a favorable 20-year deal from then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2013.

This was after the city spent more than $127 million to transform the former landfill into a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Over the years, the Trump Organization has paid the city approximately $5 million and invested $10 million in building a clubhouse in 2019.

That’s significantly less than if it had to build the course itself. The cut-price nature of the deal, and the giant Trump name plastered across the site entrance, inflamed politicians and locals no-end.

 “I am delighted that Trump’s name will no longer deface city parkland,” said Brad Lander, the city comptroller, as reported by The New York Times.

Uphill Battle

For Bally’s, the stakes are high. The casino chain is hoping to establish a gaming complex where Trump’s clubhouse stands. Any golf course here, while profitable, will hardly be the money-spinning machine that a New York City casino could be, and Bally’s has already spent millions on the project.

It will also face an uphill battle as one of 11 casino projects fighting for potentially just one new downstate New York casino license. It is widely expected, but not yet confirmed, that the nearby Yonkers racing casino venue, MGM’s Empire City, will be given one of the three bids up for grabs, alongside Genting’s Resorts World venue in Queens.

That leaves dozens of operators and their multi billion projects, including Bally’s, Las Vegas Sands and Caesars Entertainment, to compete for the final license.

The New York Gaming Commission recently answered the first round of public questions from operators, but has yet to reveal a full time line for the application process.

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