The odds are growing in the highly anticipated race for three lucrative casino licenses in the New York City area – in part because of an alleged bookmaking scandal unfolding in Las Vegas, The Post has learned.
Until last week, MGM Grand and Resorts World – operators of the Empire City Casino in Yonkers and the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, respectively – were considered losers for two of the three coveted races in a state process set to conclude next spring , get full casino licenses.
However, those calculations may have been upended in recent days – with sources saying MGM’s chances are particularly at risk.
This follows news that Scott Sibella – the former head of MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas – was ousted as president and chief operating officer of Resorts World, which he joined from MGM in 2019.
In a statement to The Post, Resorts World said Sibellas surprise exit from the company on Friday was “effective immediately” due to Sibella’s “failure to disclose certain information required by company policy.”
Resorts World declined to provide further details.
But federal agents are reportedly investigating whether employees of MGM Grand, where Sibella was president in 2017 and 2018, used company assets to pay off gambling debts to notorious bookmaker Wayne Nix, who pleaded guilty last year to running a massive, illegal gambling operation and filing false tax returns, according to an August article in the Nevada Current.
A call was made to Sibella, but she did not return the message.
According to sources, the fact that Resorts World has taken action to oust Sibella could be enough to save its place in the New York casino race.
For MGM, the picture may be more complicated because the company may now have to answer questions about what happened under Sibella’s watch several years ago, people close to the Gaming Commission say.
“This is a bigger problem for MGM because it was them [allegedly] “I am complicit in the conduct,” said a source who recently advised the New York Gaming Commission, although she is not involved in the current race for licenses. “But Resorts World would have to clean up the stain.”
“Ethics will play a big role in deciding who gets the licenses,” the source added. “The ethics and relationships with the communities in which they build their casinos are why this will be fought and won.”
“One has to assume that this investigation into Sibella reflects poorly on MGM,” said the source, who is not advising any of the casinos in the process.
Representatives for MGM did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Unfortunate news for MGM could have a positive impact on its casino gaming competitors.
Bally’s, a bidder controlled by New York financier Soo Kim, increased its chances of winning a license this month by purchasing the contract to operate Trump Links in the Bronx.
Other bidders include New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has proposed building a casino in the Citi Field parking lot.
Casino giants Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands are also fighting for the three licenses.
Nix, meanwhile, is scheduled to be sentenced in March, when more may be revealed about the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and IRS investigations into his activities.
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment.
The IRS said it did not discuss ongoing investigations.