A State Supreme Court judge Thursday voided the 99-year lease agreement that permitted Las Vegas Sands to develop a $4 billion casino and entertainment project at the site of the Nassau Coliseum property in Uniondale.
The decision comes from a lawsuit filed by Hofstra University back in April claiming the Nassau County Planning Commission violated state open meeting laws when it held a meeting in March to discuss the fate of the proposed Las Vegas Sands event center and casino, according to court documents.
The lease, overwhelmingly approved by the Nassau County Legislature in May, granted Las Vegas Sands the right to develop a resort at the Coliseum site and surrounding 72-acre site known as the Nassau Hub. Included in the proposal is a casino, hotel, live entertainment venue, community centers, restaurants and more.
Following the ruling, the votes transferring the lease have been annulled and the process needs to be restarted.
Hofstra’s lawsuit contended the commission did not properly notify the public and provide materials about the lease transfer of the Nassau Coliseum, violated executive session rules by improperly meeting, prematurely voted to close public comment and held a meeting before the lease negotiations were completed.
Supreme Court Judge Sarika Kapoor, a Hofstra graduate herself, ordered in her ruling that the commission and Nassau County Legislature conduct new public hearings, saying the violation was “an attempt to avoid public scrutiny” of the lease transfer. Included in her 32-page ruling, Kapoor ordered the Legislature to conduct an environmental review on the proposal.
Hofstra President Susan Poser said in a statement the court’s ruling allows the public to take more part in the decision-making process.
“The court recognized the public’s right to participate in decision-making about the current redevelopment plan for the Nassau Hub,” Poser said. “We look forward to contributing to the planning process and advocating for the use of the Hub in ways that will best contribute to our thriving community, while protecting against environmental and other harms.”
Sands is currently in pursuit of a state gaming license that would allow Las Vegas-style casino gambling.
The company said it is still proceeding forward with its proposal and appreciates the local community’s response to its outreach.
“Las Vegas Sands is proceeding proudly and enthusiastically with our proposal for an integrated resort and entertainment center at the Nassau Hub,” Sands said in a statement. “We are grateful for the wonderful response we have received from the Long Island community and we will be continuing our very comprehensive outreach as we present this transformational project.”
At the time of approval for the lease earlier this year, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Sands will provide the county with $54 million, which has already been paid out.
Blakeman previously said when the casino opens, the county is guaranteed $25 million in revenue with escalation costs. That figure increases to $50 million a year with escalation costs once the operation has been running for three years. Sands will also pay $5 million in recurring rent until the gaming license is obtained, at which time the recurring rent will increase to $10 million annually.
Despite Hofstra’s opposition to the plans, a pair of other local colleges have expressed support for the idea, with Nassau County Community College and Long Island University announcing they will aid Sands in its plans.
The partnership between the two colleges will allow students to advance their two-year associate’s degree into a four-year bachelor’s degree, officials said. The program, according to Sands officials, would be beneficial to graduates seeking to pursue a variety of hospitality roles.
A nonpartisan group of Nassau County residents called “Say No To The Casino Civic Association” has also been vocal in their opposition to the Sands proposal, citing concerns of decreased property values, gambling addictions in the young community and crime rates.