Las Vegas Sands’ Nassau County Casino Plans Discussed in Environmental Review Meeting
In a packed Uniondale Marriott ballroom late last week, more than 300 Nassau County residents gathered to voice their opinions on a proposed $4 billion resort casino by Las Vegas Sands (renderings pictured).
The Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, Long Island, held an environmental review hearing on the casino project, which is one of a dozen plans competing for just three upcoming licenses to join the list of New York casinos.
Views were split on the controversial casino resort, reflecting a deep community divide on the issue. The meeting saw heated exchanges between supporters and opponents of the project.
Opponents of the casino, including groups like “Say No to Casino” and “Citizens Campaign for the Environment” demanded independent studies on the potential impact on traffic, air, water quality, and noise levels.
Meanwhile, supporters of the project cited the economic benefits, including employment, extra tax dollars, and the revitalization of the Nassau County Memorial Coliseum site.
“Moving the environmental review process forward is a critical step in securing billions in economic development dollars, thousands of jobs, and endless opportunities for our region,” said the Nassau Council Chamber of Commerce in an email to members ahead of the meeting.
Hofstra University’s Legal Battles
The discussions around Las Vegas-based Sands’ multibillion planned return to U.S. casino operations are even more contentious, as there is also an ongoing legal battle in the mix.
Sands signed a 99-year lease deal on the Memorial Stadium site in May 2023. However, Hofstra University, a vocal opponent located near the proposed site, took the decision to court. It argued that the lack of public consultations violated New York State law.
The case eventually went to the New York State Supreme Court. It ruled in favor of the lease transfer, but also stated that Nassau County should have conducted public environmental impact studies before granting Sands the lease.
These comments led to the mandatory public environmental meetings on the issue, which have now begun.
To add fuel to the fire, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman recently suggested Hofstra University might be aiding a competing casino developer for the downstate license in Queens, an accusation Hofstra vehemently denies.
Blakeman publicly said that he had seen email communications between a Hard Rock lobbyist and a Hofstra representative.
Hard Rock is partnered with billionaire New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, with a plan for a multibillion casino resort in Queens near Cohen’s Citi Field baseball stadium.
Blakeman said he has subpoenaed the university to appear before the county legislature to answer questions on the issue.
Local Opinions Mixed
Its not just local business leaders that are split on Sands’ idea. Community leaders and general members of the public also spoke their opinions at the meeting.
George Krug from “Say No to Casino” criticized casinos for financially exploiting patrons. Environmental watchdogs like Adrienne Esposito were present to closely monitor the project.
Mayor of Garden City May Carter Flanagan called out the social ills they believe casinos can cause.
“Crime, poverty, addiction,” she said, succinctly outlining her views to cheers from those who agreed.
In contrast, many local small business owners and union members came out in support of Sands’ development. They touched on economic factors, including the huge employment potential, the redevelopment of a disused local amenity, and tax revenues for the county.
One such speaker was Johnny Martincic, with union local Steamfitters 638.
“We will be victorious, this casino will be built, and it will be built with union,” he said.
Discussions also touched on accessibility and employment opportunities, with advocate Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz highlighting Sands’ efforts in these areas.
The race to finalize applications for these upcoming downstate New York casino licenses is heating up, with the final round of operator questions being currently answered by the regulator, the New York State Gaming Commission.
Elsewhere, city leaders are also beginning the rezoning process that is required before any planned casinos can be approved.
The list of interested parties include a Who’s Who of international and U.S. gambling, including Genting, MGM Resorts, Sands, Hard Rock, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts. Also involved are various famous New York billionaire investors, such as Cohen, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, and real estate tycoon Larry Silverstein.
With the New York sports betting market comfortably the nation’s largest, pulling consecutive multibillion-dollar months in handle to end 2023, the expectation among city officials and operators is sky-high for the three new casinos in the long term.