NY Mets Casino Proposal Faces Obstacles, Jay-Z Touts Own Times Square Plan

The potential for new casinos in New York City continues to take shape with the team behind one proposal receiving some bad news recently. A state legislator has blocked an attempt by the owner of New York Mets to build a casino on property surrounding Citi Field.

Mets owner Steve Cohen needs state approval for any casino to be built in the area, but a key lawmaker has some concerns. State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D) looks to have to put a pause on the Mets’ plans – at least for the time being. She represents the area and has decided not to introduce a bill to go through with the changes needed for a casino to be built.

“I had a very productive town hall on Friday which is going to be the first of many conversations I have with my neighbors,” Ramos told the New York Post over the weekend. “My neighbors and I are not currently in a place where it would be appropriate to introduce parkland alienation legislation.”

A Mets Casino Could be in Doubt

As the casino proposal gets more attention, apparently residents in the area have expressed concerns with the Mets converting the team’s parking lots to a casino. The area in question around the ballpark has been part of Flushing Meadows Park since 1939.

The state assembly has already seen legislation to allow for the changes, but there is now a holdup in the Senate. A professional soccer stadium is also planned in the area and Ramos told the Post that almost two-thirds of those who spoke at the town hall were against also adding a casino.

Cohen believes discussions can continue on the proposal as the state continues considering bids for possible downstate casino bids. He also believes many residents in the area as well as fans are in support of the team’s plans.

“We have been working closely with Senator Ramos from the beginning and her input has been an important part of our approach,” team management noted in a statement on the issue. “We will continue to partner with her and our neighbors in Queens as we incorporate their feedback and have an open dialogue with the community and a transparent process on how best to reimagine the 50 acres of asphalt around Citi Field.

“Based on the input we have received across 15 listening sessions, hundreds of meetings and over 20,000 door-to-door conversations, we believe that both Mets fans and the surrounding community will like what they see when we unveil a vision anchored in new public green space, thousands of new and permanent jobs and entertainment that brings people to the area every single day of the year.”

A Look at Other Casino Options, Jay-Z Seeks Support

This isn’t the only casino proposal in the city to receive some pushback. Earlier this month, local leaders voted down a plan to bring a new casino to the historic Coney Island area.

“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.”

Several large gaming companies are hoping they win the race to land a casino license in the city. Bidders must be ready to pay a minimum licensing fee of $500 million with slot and table tax minimums expected to be set at 25% and 10%, respectively. A minimum of a $500 million capital investment is also required per state bidding plans.

Rapper and business mogul Jay-Z is hoping his partnership with Caesars Palace for a Times Square casino ultimately wins out. He recently penned an open letter to residents in the city imploring them to support his group’s plan.

“The casino would reportedly be built on the top eight floors of an existing Times Square skyscraper, smack in the middle of Broadway’s famed theater district,” TMZ.com reports. “Some theater owners and producers are vehemently opposed to the casino, but Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment company) says its bid includes $115 million for ‘diverse theater programs’ to aid Broadway employees.”

The Jay-Z/Roc Nation letter outlines the group’s plans and noted that they plan to “put the well-being of New Yorkers at the top of their agenda and do right by its residents.

“Roc Nation and our partners are here to ensure Times Square remains connected to all facets of culture. There’s no better location for a Caesars Palace entertainment destination than the Crossroads of the World.”

State officials are expected to award licenses in the coming months and bidders continue jockeying to win support for their own plans, including the plan to legalize NY online casinos.


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