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Casino licensing law is a lot like casino…

Last month, Senator Joseph Addabbo introduced legislation to dramatically speed up the licensing process for three casinos in or around New York City. The shift benefits one of the clear frontrunners for a license – the Resorts World racino, which borders Addabbo’s Queens district – while potentially hurting the chances of several rivals. A modified version of the idea is gaining traction in the Legislature, which is now in the final days of its term.

Documents obtained by New York Focus indicate that a lobbying firm working for Resorts World helped draft the original bill.

Resorts World Catskills casino in front of a clear, gray sky

In the lead-up to the introduction of Addabbo’s bill, draft language circulated in Albany in the form of a Microsoft Word document titled “Casino Application Process Bill Draft – Counsel Edits 5/15/2024 V2 (1).” The date – May 15 – was two days before Addabbo introduced his bill.

New York Focus compared Resorts World’s draft to Addabbo’s legislation and found that their language is nearly identical in several key places. Provisions creating new deadlines for applications and detailed criteria for a “preliminary examination” were adopted almost word for word.

The metadata of the Word document shows that the ‘author’, that is, the person who created the document, is Ali Rimkunas. She is associate counsel at prominent lobbying firm Cordo & Company in Albany and works for the firm on gaming-related issues, according to her online biography.

Genting, the Malaysian casino giant that owns Resorts World, pays Cordo & Company as much as $90,000 a month in fees for lobbying, communications and consulting work, according to state lobbying filings. Reached by phone, Rimkunas declined to comment.

Addabbo acknowledged that Resorts World had proposed language, but said his legal counsel wrote the bill. “Never has anyone had literal, rubber stamp authority from the outside, let alone to get their bill written, and that didn’t happen here,” he told New York Focus.

“More and more people are asking me: why postpone?”

– State Senator Joseph Addabbo

Addabbo’s bill proposed a requirement for bidders to submit their casino plans by July 31, which also appeared in the Resorts World-backed draft. Regardless of whether the bids had any outstanding issues — such as land use questions — the state casino board would have a month to determine whether the applications would proceed, and then until March 31, 2025, to select conditional winners.

The bill is in response to a recent move by the state gaming commission to delay awarding the licenses until the end of 2025. The delay would prevent several other bids, including a proposal to build a casino near Citi Field in Queens , giving more time to sort. solving problems with thorny zoning laws or alienation of parks.

Unlike rival bidders, Resorts World and MGM‘s Empire City racino in Yonkers have already been built, giving them a significant head start. Albany insiders believe they are strong favorites to win two of the three licenses, which would allow them to offer table games such as blackjack and poker in addition to the slot machines they already operate.

Addabbo, chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, has defended Resorts World’s bid.

“More and more people are asking me: why postpone? Why don’t we realize the task? Why are we not realizing the returns?” Addabbo told New York Focus last month. “It is our intention to expedite this as best as possible, while maintaining integrity and transparency. It’s still fair to everyone. But we have to take this further.”

While it is unlikely that Addabbo’s bill, as originally written, will pass before the legislative session ends this week, Politico reported that legislative leadership is considering another version. And on Tuesday, Addabbo and Sen. Kevin Parker introduced such amended legislation, which would create an Aug. 31 deadline for submitting applications and require the venue panel to recommend winners by the end of 2025.

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