Commercial real estate firm Thor Equities is the latest major developer to throw its hat in the ring for a casino license. The New York-based firm announced last week it has partnered with Saratoga Casino Holdings, Legends, and the Chickasaw Nation in a bid to develop a new casino and entertainment venue within Brooklyn’s famed Coney Island. The $3 billion proposed development would also include a roller coaster near the Coney Island boardwalk, an indoor water park, multiple hotels, and museums. “Together we have the track record across development, operations, gaming, entertainment, and job creation that is best suited to bring Coney Island security and vitality for the next century,” said Thor Equities Chairman Joe Sitt in a statement.
New York voters first approved casinos for the downstate region in 2013. Now, nearly ten years later, three casino licenses will be up for grabs starting in January. Two of the licenses are expected to go to operators who are already up and running but do not have a full casino license: Resorts World New York City in Queens and MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers. Those two casinos are currently limited to just electronic gambling. With its proposed development, currently the first Brooklyn bid, Thor joins a roster of some of the biggest names in real estate vying for a license. The Related Companies is partnering with one of the largest casino operators in the country, Wynn, in a bid for a casino in the Hudson Yards area, while Manhattan’s largest landlord, SL Green, is partnering with Caesars Entertainment for a casino in the heart of Times Square. Mets owner Steve Cohen is also reportedly eyeing a license for a casino near Citi Field and has been in talks with major Las Vegas casino owners about teaming up.
The interest in building casinos in densely populated urban areas isn’t just limited to NYC. In Chicago, where the city’s first casino was approved earlier this year, Bally’s is planning to open a $1.7 billion casino and entertainment complex at the former Chicago Tribune publishing center. The owner of the site, which the Chicago Tribune identified as Oak Street Real Estate Capital, agreed to fund $300 million in development costs for the casino complex. The casino industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, according to a recent study from the journal Nature, and a lot of the growth has been happening in the U.S. More cities are looking at casinos in order to spur economic development and job growth, and while it has been successful in some places, there is a lot to consider when developing these kinds of projects. While it remains to be seen how future casino developments in New York in Chicago will fare, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see casinos being considered in cities looking to spur more economic development and job creation.