A majority of Queens residents support an effort to bring a casino hotel to the Citi Field area. But those numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, because polling was conducted on behalf of a group pushing to bring a gaming venue to the borough.
The survey was conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research on behalf of New Green Willets, a political lobbying entity with ties to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. The poll indicates 78% of Queens residents support the gaming project. Nearly two-thirds grew more supportive when learning the project is slated to include a “live music venue, casino gaming, and conference spaces.”
The survey queried 600 Queens residents during the second week of April. A breakdown of locals’ backing by neighborhood wasn’t included.
Queens is already home to Resorts World New York, which currently operates as a slots-only property. Along with MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers, Resorts World is widely expected to land a downstate gaming permit, leaving a slew of other operators competing for just one license. Previous polling suggests residents support the expansion of Empire City and Resorts World.
Cohen Attempting to Drum Up Queens Casino Support
In January, New Green Willets conducted a “visioning session” at Citi Field, which discussed the possibility of an “entertainment destination” in the area of the stadium. A statement publicizing that event refrained from using the word “casino.”
Cohen’s plans to develop the unused 50 acres by Citi Field, comprised mostly of asphalt, include more than a gaming venue. In an effort to curry favor among locals, there’s talk of green space, park areas, and enhanced areas for biking and walking.
While there’s already some opposition to Cohen’s Queens casino push, the location could prove advantageous. Developing a gaming venue in Manhattan is likely to be difficult and assuredly costly. Plus, support for a casino hotel in that borough is tepid. A Siena College poll conducted in January indicated 38% of New Yorkers think a Manhattan casino is a good idea, while the same percentage oppose such a plan.
Cohen and others with ties to New Green Willets are playing the New York political machine game, ranking among the top donors to Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul — both Democrats. It’s believed Hard Rock International is Cohen’s partner of choice for the project.
Long Road Ahead for Queens Casino
While the Schoen Cooperman Research polls confirmed support for the Queens casino effort, getting the go-ahead to develop Willets Point is another matter. Known in the area as the “Iron Triangle” because of the former presence of numerous junkyards and scrap shops, the area has proven notoriously tough to develop. Various efforts to that effect have been attempted and faltered by political controversies.
In November 2022, Mayor Adams announced a vision for Willets Point that’s anchored by 2,500 new affordable homes, the largest 100-percent affordable, new construction housing project in New York City in 40 years. The plan will also bring New York City’s first soccer-specific stadium along with public open space, a hotel and neighborhood-serving, ground-floor retail shops that will create good-paying jobs for community residents,” according to the New York Economic Development Council (NYEDC).
Currently, the leader for the third downstate casino license is believed to be Las Vegas Sands, which is looking to bring a gaming venue to Uniondale on Long Island.
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