Las Vegas Sands is pursuing a multibillion-dollar flagship casino, entertainment and hospitality development following its agreement to purchase a long-term lease on the home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1972 on New York’s Long Island. It will be the company’s first entertainment project in the US since it sold its Las Vegas properties last year.
Pending approvals from the Nassau County Legislature, Sands will acquire control of up to 80 acres in Nassau County. Before the pandemic, Long Island had more than 9 million visitors a year, according to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
High quality casino games are planned to account for less than 10 percent of the total development footprint. Proposed plans for the Nassau Coliseum include four- and five-star hotels, celebrity chef restaurants and a world-class performance venue celebrating Nassau Coliseum’s live music legacy.
Unlike some of its competitors, the Sands’ ambitions are to bring tourists and meeting professionals beyond the obvious choice of Manhattan, about 30 miles east on Long Island. New York is still struggling to get its tourism and meetings business back to pre-pandemic levels, pulling out the stops with new marketing campaigns. But Sands is confident in its ability to make Nassau County a sought-after destination.
Las Vegas Sands is a developer and operator of world-class integrated resorts, which refers to casinos that integrate some combination of lodging, entertainment, retail, fine dining and convention facilities. Although based in the US, Sands has no exposure to the domestic market after selling its Vegas stake when Apollo Management bought The Venetian Resort for $6.25 billion in early 2022. Its current portfolio consists entirely of casino hotels in Asia, with five in Macau and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore.
Rob Goldstein, CEO and chairman of Sands, believes the Sands proposal could bring massive tourism to Nassau and transform the county.
“Our offering is very traditional in terms of thinking about large-scale LVS with multiple non-gaming assets, a lot of meeting space, probably 400,000 square feet per foot of new space,” Goldstein said on the company’s recent fourth-quarter earnings call.
Sands stands out from other hopeful casino developers who are focusing their sites on New York City itself for potential entertainment developments. Several are also turning the poker tables on the back of their offerings to emphasize tourism’s economic benefits and community impact.
Related Companies, the developer behind Hudson Yards in midtown Manhattan, was the first to join forces with Wynn Resorts to propose transforming the underdeveloped train station next to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Promises for the site bounced around hotel rooms, nightclubs and restaurants, with ideas for a school, affordable housing and parks also thrown into the mix.
Like the Sands bid, “gambling will be less than 10 percent of the resort,” John Weinstein, a spokesman for Related Companies, said in an interview with the New York Times.
Caesars Entertainment has partnered with SL Green Realty Corp. and Roc Nation, a full-service entertainment agency founded by Jay Z to pursue a bid to transform Times Square. The ambitious collaboration highlights the development’s potential to not only accelerate Broadway’s economic recovery, restaurants and hotels, but also improve safety and congestion through an integrated traffic plan.
Billionaires Stefan Soloviev and Steve Cohen also joined the race, with Soloviev hoping to add a Ferris wheel to the Manhattan skyline and Cohen to develop Citi Field in Queens. Various partnerships continue to form and target other New York neighborhoods as well.
Sands’ bid, along with other applicants, is contingent on winning one of New York State’s recently announced gaming licenses. In early 2023, the New York Gaming Facilities Board issued a request for applications (RFAs) for up to three commercial casinos in the state.
There are four existing destination resort casinos in upstate New York, including Resorts World in Queens and MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers. While all three licenses are considered competitive by the board, these two locations are established entities known to state politicians and are widely speculated to receive two of the three licenses.
Both locations currently operate as a so-called racino, which has no live table games or dealers, only horse racing tracks and digital betting. Properties that only have slot machines are said to generate $2 billion in revenue annually.
Applicants will be evaluated on four objectives, with 70 percent of the attention focused on the plan’s economic activity and business development factors, with the remainder evenly split between tourism impact, workforce enhancement and diversity factors.
The board is accepting initial questions from prospective applicants until Feb. 3 and expects to host a second round in the future. Although no bid deadlines have been set at this time, a non-refundable application fee of US$1 million is required for bidders to be considered, and a minimum capital investment and license fee of US$500 million is required for a bid to to meet the requirements.
Goldstein added on the earnings call that New York is an exceptional and unique opportunity and LVS’s offering is positioned to grow tourism with a transformative product. Former state governor David A. Patterson is a senior vice president at the company.
“We’ve been trying to do New York for a few years,” Goldstein said, “but it looks like this is finally somebody’s opportunity. We hope it’s ours.”
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