Coney Island Casino Proposal Earns Thumbs Down from Local Leaders

A potential casino and entertainment project in New York City’s Coney Island looks like a non-starter with community leaders. A board of representatives considering the issue voted the proposed resort down in a 23-8 vote last week.

The Coney Island casino complex was a joint effort of Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation, and Legends (the hospitality company that’s a joint venture between the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones). The casino would be located along Brooklyn’s historic beach and boardwalk. Plans called for a hotel and casino at the popular entertainment and tourist destination.

Officially known as Community Board 13, the group is composed of borough and local council members, according to the New York Post. The officials are tasked with determining if a casino is appropriate for the Coney Island area. Some noted that the community in general seems opposed to the proposal.

“I completely agree with the overwhelming opposition from the community in Coney Island,” Brooklyn Councilman Ari Kagan told the Post. He represents the Coney Island area. “I hear this not just in Coney Island but all over southern Brooklyn. … The overwhelming majority of people I talk to are against the casino.”

A Look at the Issue

As board members considered the issue, many pointed out concerns among residents and business owners in the area. A potential casino might add to traffic, crime and mental health problems. Some pointed to Atlantic City as an example of what the area might devolve into by adding casino gaming to the already busy area.

Board members also were concerned with new residential projects in the area that wouldn’t have parking availability because of the project. Others argued the area already has a high crime rate and that many gamblers would mostly stay in the casino rather than visit area businesses.

Coney Island amusement and entertainment district attracts more than 5 million visitors annually, according to the New York City Department of Small Business Services. However, the department reports that many of the businesses face challenges of the area being mostly a seasonal destination.

That has led some Coney Island business leaders looking for a more permanent anchor that might draw more to the area year-round. Despite the board vote, the casino project does have supporters.

“I get to put passion where my mouth is and do something epic by bringing economic stability to Coney Island,” former 36th district council member Robert Cornegy Jr. told Brooklyn City Paper. “This is one of those projects that I am proud to be on because it takes a seasonal community and turns it into a year-round economic development.”

Possible New York Casino Location Struck Down

The board ultimately voted against the proposal, probably bringing a close one of several proposals for a casino license in downstate New York.

“Our community cannot endure the substantial burden and problems that this venue will generate,” the board’s resolution noted. “We request that our local elected officials collaborate with us to address our existing problems, not drown us with additional problems. Community Board 13 is listening to our community and recommends opposing a casino development in our district and urges our elected officials to inform the Gaming Commission the decision of the community they represent.”

The state looks to add another three casinos in the state. A 2013 statute approved for seven additional casinos with four of those properties now already built upstate.

Only three New York City licenses remain and several gaming companies and other corporations are looking to get in on the bidding. The statute set the minimum licensing fee at $500 million with slot and table tax minimums expected to be set at 25% and 10%, respectively. Bidders are also required to make a $500 million capital investment as part of their plans.

Sands recently outlined a plan for a casino in an area that is currently home to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Caesars and SL Green Realty have proposed a Times Square skyscraper casino and the Mohegan tribe is looking to construct a property under a massive Ferris wheel near the United Nations in Midtown East.

Saks Fifth Avenue officials envision a high-end casino on the top three floors of its department store in Midtown. Related Companies and Wynn Resorts are teaming up for a proposal next to the Javits Center in Hudson Yards.

Even more plans continue rolling in. Steve Cohen, owner of the Mets, is considering making a play for a casino and entertainment facility around Citi Field in Queens. Media reports list Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock corporation as a potential partner. It will be interesting to see what develops in the coming months and which proposals ultimately reach the construction stage.

Online casinos are not likely to appear in the state any time soon, although many potential applicants already operate online platforms, including Caesars Online Casino and WynnBET Casino.


Sean Chaffin is a longtime freelance writer, editor, and former high school journalism teacher.