New York’s Hofstra University and Hard Rock Accused of Working Against Las Vegas Sands Casino Plan

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In a controversial turn of events, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has accused the local Hofstra University of working with Hard Rock International to oppose Las Vegas Sands’ planned casino in the Long Island county.

Blakeman alleges that the university is working with Hard Rock International, who are also in the race for one of three upcoming licenses for additional New York casinos, to organize opposition against Sands’ project.

Hofstra University has already publicly opposed Sands’ bid to bring a casino to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale (pictured), even initiating legal action over the handling of the process.

Blakeman says he has seen emails between a Hard Rock lobbyist and a Hofstra representative that suggest collusion between the organizations. The county politician has taken serious steps by subpoenaing the university president to appear before the Nassau County Legislature.

“We found that Hofstra University and one of the competitors to Las Vegas Sands were working in coordination, and some might even say collusion,” Blakeman said at a press conference on Wednesday. “You have an applicant for a license that’s not supposed to be colluding or coordinating with any other entity against anybody else’s application.”

Responses from Hofstra and Hard Rock International

Hofstra University issued a statement countering the accusation.

The legal action by Blakeman was a “spurious attempt to distract and impede a fair and open process regarding this transfer of Nassau County land,” the University said.

Hofstra University is already suing the county over the transfer of the stadium site lease to Sands.

“We should be investing in opportunities to foster growth and development, not in an industry that can be dangerous to students and community members,” the school said in a statement in 2023.

However, Blakeman hit back at that angle, saying that if Hofstra was genuinely concerned about student well-being, it wouldn’t be cooperating with Hard Rock’s casino bid, as that proposal’s chosen site is also close to several academic institutions in Queens.

“We find it hypocritical that they’re against all the things they said they were against and all the concerns they said they had they weren’t,” Blakeman said this week. “They weren’t concerned about the students in Queens. Basically, they said you can put it over the border a few miles away and it’s fine.”

Meanwhile, Hard Rock International has categorically denied any communication or cooperation with Hofstra University.

“Hard Rock has not had any communication whatsoever with Hofstra University or its President related to Nassau,” said a statement from the Florida-based gambling and hospitality giant.

“We are committed to integrity, honesty and transparency in the RFA process for a downstate license in New York and will not waver from that position.  We made this clear to all of our vendors and partners and will not tolerate any behavior that would counter that position.”

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Licenses and Public Hearing

Las Vegas Sands, the Nevada-based gambling giant that currently has no U.S. casinos, has signed a 99-year lease on the 80-acre Memorial Stadium site. The 16,000-seat stadium has been vacant since 2021, previously being the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders.

If given one of the licenses in a competitive field, Sands plans to build a $4 billion casino resort complex on the site.

Meanwhile, rival bidder Hard Rock is backing New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s plan to build a giant casino resort opposite his Citi Field stadium in Queens.

The first public hearing about the proposed resort and casino at Nassau Hub is scheduled to take place soon, potentially shedding more light on the situation.

This hearing will be critical for all parties involved, including the Nassau County government, Hofstra University, Hard Rock International, and Las Vegas Sands, as well as the local community impacted by the proposed casino project.

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