Ramos Won’t Propose Necessary Queens Casino Legislation

Written By Derek Helling on May 23, 2023
new york senator jessica ramos is a key figure in the queens casino proposal

If there is to ever be a casino near Citi Field in Queens, the hopeful developers of such a facility will need several people in Albany on their side. Right now, those developers face a challenge in enlisting the state senator who represents the area to their cause.

New York Sen. Jessica Ramos has shared that she will not propose a bill crucial to the project moving forward. While that isn’t necessarily a death knell for the project, it would definitely be far easier to sell the casino project with her support.

Ramos says local support for Citi Field casino is lacking

According to James Ford of Pix11, Ramos currently stands as an obstacle to the ambitions of New York Mets owner Steven Cohen and Seminole Gaming. Cohen and Seminole Gaming are among several bidders interested in one of three licenses to operate a downstate casino in New York.

The casino would occupy a 50-acre plot that Citi Field uses as parking space. However, there’s a zoning issue on the state level. In the state’s view, the plot has a parkland designation. Such a designation blocks the operation of a casino.

Ramos could introduce legislation to change that designation. However, Ford reports
that she says she has no plans to do so right now. Ramos elaborated on why that is the case.

“I understand that he [Cohen] very much would like for me to do this as soon as possible,” Ramos stated. “Unfortunately, we have not had robust, serious conversations with the community about all of our options. We’ve calculated that about 65% of my neighbors who spoke up at the town hall spoke out against a casino specifically. That’s because, you know, casinos are known to extract wealth from communities. I would not want to live in a world where we need to have a casino in order to win all of the basic things that every single New Yorker should be afforded without discrimination.”

In her statement, Ramos made it clear that she is not completely closed off to the idea. However, her comments suggest she is not on board at this point, either. A spokesperson for Cohen shared that work is ongoing to build this relationship.

“We have been working closely with Senator Ramos from the beginning and her input has been an important part of our approach. 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.”

Should efforts to sway Ramos ultimately prove unsuccessful, that doesn’t make the path forward disappear for Cohen and Seminole Gaming. It would make that path more fraught, however.

Why Ramos’ support could make things easier for a Queens casino

Any member of the New York Senate could, in theory, propose a bill to change the designation of the 50-acre plot. It’s also possible that a member of the New York Assembly from the area could propose a similar measure.

Without Ramos’ support for that legislation, though, it’s questionable whether such a bill would pass. In order for the casino to materialize on the current site, the designation must change. There’s no getting around that.

The only other option Cohen and Seminole Gaming would have is to select another site. However, adjacency to Citi Field is the appeal of the current site. Another site would lack that desirable attribute. Additionally, securing another site could split the interests in the casino further.

Furthermore, Ramos’ support or lack thereof could affect whether Seminole Gaming will be among the three selections for potential casinos. The support of local officials will figure into the scoring system the New York State Gaming Association’s special committee will use to determine which bids will win the privilege of applying for a license.

Another bid containing unanimous support from local lawmakers could outscore the Cohen bid. Should that occur, a change in the plot’s designation would be irrelevant as far as the casino project goes.

For these reasons, getting Ramos on the team is important for Cohen. While a coalition without her isn’t destined to fail, that failure becomes more probable without her.

Photo by AP Photo/Hans Pennink; illustrated by Playin USA
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of Playin USA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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