Steve Cohen, the billionaire owner of the New York Mets, is in discussions with Las Vegas Sands Corp. about a possible casino next to Citi Field, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
The talks are preliminary, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private. The state is currently in the early stages of exploring casino licenses in the New York City area, and any formal plan would still require a series of regulatory and legislative approvals.
“Steve thinks that Willets Point needs to be addressed long-term—it’s a mess,” said a Mets spokesperson, adding the team’s priority remains on filling open baseball positions. “He has been hearing lots of ideas, and the Mets want to be part of those conversations to ensure the interests of our fans and the local community are well represented.”
A representative for Las Vegas Sands didn’t respond to an email and voice message.
Earlier this month the New York State gaming commission issued a 14-page request for information to gauge interest in three unawarded casino licenses in the lucrative “downstate” region in and around New York City. Considered a precursor to opening a formal bidding process, responses are due Dec. 10.
The sports and gaming industries have grown closer in the past few years, following a landmark Supreme Court decision that let states legalize sports betting. League likes the NFL, NBA and MLB, which fought that lawsuit for years, have moved quickly to embrace the new industry and the money associated with it. The Washington Capitals recently became the first major U.S. team to have a sportsbook inside its home venue, a sight that will likely become commonplace in the next few years. New York currently only allows legal sports betting at casinos.
The Mets own Citi Field, which opened in 2009 adjacent to the site of the old Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. The team has a 99-year lease to the land, which includes lots adjacent to the stadium that are being considered for a potential casino, the people said.
Founded by the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) is one of the country’s largest operators of casinos and resorts, with eight properties and more than 50,000 employees around the world. Its portfolio includes the Venetian Resort and Sands Expo in Las Vegas.
New York State legalized casino gaming nearly a decade ago, with a license structure that prioritized upstate communities far from New York City. A bidding process awarded four commercial casino licenses, leaving three others for possible future development.
The gaming commission’s request for information regarding those three unawarded licenses cover “downstate” locations—New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and three counties north of the city (Westchester, Rockland and Putnam).
The New York Post reported earlier this month that casino operators had scouted spots near Citi Field, near Belmont Park in Long Island (home to the racetrack and the New York Islanders’ new arena) and the St. George neighborhood in Staten Island. It mentioned Bally’s Corp., Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and Malaysia-based Genting as groups that might express interest.
New York has a number of racinos and tribal casinos, plus the four commercial casinos in the “upstate” region. They are Del Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, Tioga Downs in Tioga, and Resorts World Catskills in Kiamesha Lake, all at least 90 miles from New York City.
(The story was updated to include a comment from a Mets spokesperson.)