Published: December 13, 2018

Sheldon Adelson makes a play for a New York City casino

Sheldon Adelson wants to build a casino in New York City, and the corporation he runs is enlisting some of New York’s most prominent players in a campaign to win the close ally of President Trump his prize.

Howard Glaser, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former operations chief, is working as a consultant for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation and has brokered meetings between officials from the company and New York business leaders. It has also hired Kivvit, the lobbying firm that employs Cuomo’s 2018 campaign manager, Maggie Moran, and Cuomo’s former communications director, Rich Bamberger.

Kathryn Wylde is one of the business leaders Adelson's team is trying to court. In late June, Glaser introduced the Partnership for New York City president to Robert Goldstein, the president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, Wylde said. In October, she met with the company’s senior vice president of global communications, Ron Reese.

"They just wanted to tell us that they’re eager to do something, and that they do things at a high-end, grand scale,” said Kathryn Wylde in an interview this week. “They’re looking for civic support."

In a sign of its seriousness about entering New York, Sands — which is not known as a union-friendly operator — also reached an agreement with Peter Ward, the head of New York's powerful hotel workers union. The agreement guarantees hotel and casino workers the right to organize at any future Sands facility in New York, the company and hotel union said.

"Sands has had the opportunity to meet with people representing the business community, civic organizations and organized labor," said a spokesperson for the company. "These discussions have given the company both important insights on New York as well as producing tangible results, such as the labor peace agreement the company reached with Peter Ward and the Hotel Trades Council."

To some onlookers, Las Vegas Sands’ foray into New York politics smells of temerity. Adelson is one of the GOP’s top donors and so close to Trump that the president recently awarded Adelson’s wife, Miriam, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. New York is one of the bluest states in the nation.

Sands’ moves might also seem premature. New York State only authorized seven non-Indian casinos in 2013. State law appears to bar the state from issuing any licenses in New York City until 2023, or seven years after the first upstate casino became operational. Several state spokespeople declined to comment for this story.

But there is a belief among some casino operators that the timeline could be compressed.

Officials representing Resorts World’s racino at the Aqueduct in Queens have spoken with officials from MGM Resorts about teaming up to convince the state to shorten that timeline, according to two knowledgeable sources. MGM is buying Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway.

“We’re discussing gaming issues with stakeholders and leaders throughout New York and we look forward to continued conversations about the related economic benefits and opportunities in the year ahead,” said MGM spokesperson Brian Ahern.

A spokesman for Resorts World declined comment.

New York State’s gambling environment is nothing if not complicated. The four upstate casinos that the state authorized in 2013 — and that Cuomo championed — aren’t doing as well as the governor expected. Some are wondering if the downstate casinos might help bolster the upstate facilities’ bottom line.

New York City gambling, proponents argue, could also generate revenue for state purposes, like the languishing subway system.

Given the saturation of the casino market nationwide, “New York is probably one of the last markets out there that you can make money on,” said Alan Woinski, a gaming industry consultant.


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