Mets owner Steve Cohen bets big on NYC Casino

He lost a fortune trying to get federal support to build a casino next to Citi Field, and now Mets owner Steve Cohen is banking on a nearby football stadium project to help him hit the jackpot.

Insiders say the billionaire hedge fund and its team believe a $780 million mixed-use development project announced by city officials Wednesday — including a 25,000-seat stadium for New York City Football Club, a hotel and 2,500 affordable housing units – is a big win for Cohen’s anticipated bid to secure one of three downstate casino licenses Albany Pols intends to make available.

“They see the stadium plan as a big selling point for the casino,” said a City Hall official. “Anything that shows more people will be coming to the Willets Point area will only help the casino plan.”

Among Cohen’s main competitors for a casino license are Related Companies, which are working with former Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpons Sterling Equities on the Willets Point megadevelopment.

An image of Citi Field.
Cohen believes NYCFC Stadium will be a driving force in bringing the Queens casino close to the Mets’ Citi Field.
Jessie Alcheh/AP

Related plans to partner with Wynn Resorts to seek a casino license for the undeveloped west end of Hudson Yards in Manhattan.

Cohen, meanwhile, has been in talks with Hard Rock hotels and casinos to become a partner in his potential gaming venture – and has already dug deep into his $26.1 billion fortune to help win it.

“[Cohen and his team] spent a lot of money and time getting introduced to a variety of state and city officials to build relationships before officially asking for it,” another insider said.

Cohen has been in talks with Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos to become partners in his potential gaming venture.
Eric Adams endorsed NYCFC Stadium in Queens.
S9 architecture

Through a new entity formed in April called “New Green Willets,” Cohen spent $334,854 on outside lobbyists trying to garner support for a casino and other businesses from many state and city officials, records show.

The meet-and-greets included private talks or tours with Mayor Adams; State Gambling Commission officials; Councilor Francisco Moya and Senator Jessica Ramos, Queens Democrats representing surrounding boroughs; Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens), chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Betting Committee; and longtime Adams gatekeeper Frank Carone before stepping down as the mayor’s chief of staff in September.

New Green Willets lists Michael Sullivan, chief of staff at Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management, as its key internal lobbyist.

Cohen began working with Adams last year, donating $1.5 million to a Super PAC supporting Adams' campaign.
Cohen began working with Adams last year, donating $1.5 million to a Super PAC supporting Adams’ campaign.

It cost an additional $185,428 in miscellaneous expenses, including $43,000 to Barclays Center designers SHoP Architects for “design services,” records show.

Cohen began working with Adams last year, donating $1.5 million to a Super PAC that supported Adams’ successful mayoral campaign.

His wife Alexandra supported Gov. Hochul’s successful campaign this year with a donation of $69,700, the maximum amount allowed by law, records show. She also donated $22,600 to the then-Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin, who resigned months later after being indicted on federal bribery allegations.

The Cohens also donated $125,000 to the state Democratic Party’s campaign committee and $25,000 to the state Democratic Convention Committee.

A picture of Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference.
Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference this month about a new football stadium and affordable housing in Willets Point.
Dennis A Clark for the NY Post

Cohen has spoken about building a casino in the Citi Field parking lot, but a major downside is that the land is technically parkland, so additional state permits would be required, according to various officials briefed on the matter.

An insider said the billionaire group is hopeful the parkland designation could be removed and existing parking lots replaced with the construction of a multi-story parking garage.

Ramos, who would likely be required to sign such a law to remove parkland status, said she wanted to hear from the public first.

“Even if I decide to change the designation of the parkland, I want it to be subject to a public review process,” she said.

Downstate “racinos” – Genting Resorts World New York City on the Aqueduct in Queens and MGM-Empire City Yonkers – are widely considered favorites to secure two out of three state licenses allowing it to offer table games.

San Diego Padres and the NY Mets played at Citi Field in October 2022.
Cohen has spoken about building a casino in the Citi Field parking lot, but a major downside is that the land is considered parkland.
Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post

Critics have claimed the process was rigged in favor of the Aqueduct and Yonkers racetracks through language inserted into the state budget by Hochul. The governor has insisted that she did not tamper with the bidding process and that her office had used language previously adopted by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, in relation to upstate casino site selection.

Hochul spokesman Avi Small said that “the casino location process will be fair, transparent and free from political interference,” with all decisions made by the state’s “independent” Gaming Facility Location Board.

Messages left at Point72 Asset Management by Cohen went unanswered and related companies declined to comment.

When asked about Cohen’s expected casino game, Adams told reporters Wednesday, “This is a state matter. I am not authorized to determine the location for it.” He declined further comments on Saturday. Mets owner Steve Cohen bets big on NYC Casino


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