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Las Vegas Sands pursues a downstate casino license at old Nassau Coliseum site

The Sands Corp.
Las Vegas Sands Corporation released this rendering of aspects of a proposed entertainment destination on the Nassau Coliseum property.

Las Vegas Sands, the resort company and casino, announced Thursday that it will pursue a license to operate an entertainment destination and casino on the property of the former Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale.

Sands Corp. is vying for one of three downstate casino licenses up for grabs from the New York State Gaming Commission, which applications opened for last week.

Former Governor David Paterson, who now serves as senior vice president of Sands Corp, said that first, the company needs to win over local communities with the possibilities of economic development.

“I think a lot of people would be drawn to it,” he said. “And in the end, our counties and our towns will reap the benefits of the taxes that come in on that. And that will be a lot of money.”

The company has entered an agreement to purchase the long-term lease of the 80-acre property. The $4 billion privately funded project would include a hotel and spa, restaurants, performance venue and convention space.

Less than 10% of the project’s square footage would focus on casino gaming. For that reason, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said he could support the Sands Corp. project, compared to other projects he has seen.

“It had to be something that was first class and exciting and primarily an entertainment center and hospitality play, rather than just a casino,” Blakeman said Thursday. “I wasn't interested in just a casino.”

The Sands Corp.
Las Vegas Sands Corporation released this rendering of aspects of a proposed entertainment destination on the Nassau Coliseum property.

He added that any proposal would also require traffic remediation and job training through nearby educational institutions, like Nassau Community College and Hofstra University — which is across the street.

Patterson, who graduated from Hofstra Law School, said a venue in this space could help keep young people engaged on Long Island. “The greater majority of my friends were not living on Long Island anymore, they went to other states,” he said. "And I think that this should have been the kind of resource that would make them want to stay here — You know, not just gambling, but going to places where you can see live performances, have business retreats, stay in hotels, or enjoy the shopping and restaurants.”

The project would also provide around 5,000 union jobs in both construction and operations.

Citing of a casino at the Nassau Hub in Uniondale has been long discussed. Stuart Robinowitz was vehemently opposed to a casino on Long Island in 2014 when he was president of Hofstra University. Since then, he has become supportive, since joining the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board. He has said the state's application process for potential bidders was better than the version proposed in 2014.

“Obviously no, if the community is not happy, that certainly is something that as an elected official, you have to be able to get a pulse of what the community wants,” Blakeman said.

The state is expected to award licenses for facilities later this year. The cost of obtaining a commercial gaming license is around $500 million. The application fee is $1 million.

Related Companies and Wynn Resorts have announced a partnership to pursue a gaming license for a project at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, near the Javits Convention Center. Developer SL Green Realty has partnered with Caesars Entertainment to attempt to bring a casino to Times Square.

Ron Reese, Sands’ senior vice president for global communications and corporate affairs said, the project could go forward even if the state does not approve a casino.

Making changes to the Coliseum’s lease would require approval from the Nassau County Legislature.

“I've heard from many residents that oppose the casino aspect, and although I agree with that sentiment based on past casino projects, it's important to listen to everyone so we can move forward together with all perspectives in mind,” County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, D-Freeport, said in a statement.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.