County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced a lease agreement between Nassau and Las Vegas Sands to develop a casino and entertainment resort at the site of the Coliseum and surrounding 72-acre site known as the Nassau Hub on Wednesday.
The agreement, subject to approval from the Republican-controlled county Legislature, would permit the Sands to develop a $4 billion resort that includes a casino, hotel, live entertainment venue, community centers, restaurants and more.
Upon approval by the Legislature, Blakeman said, Sands will provide Nassau County with $54 million.
The county executive expressed his confidence in legislative approval and said the revenue this proposal could generate has significant potential.
“My friends that I’ve talked to in the casino industry have told me that this could become the highest-grossing casino in America,” Blakeman said. “Let me stress, that we want to use that money for good things, to stabalize our tax plan, make sure we don’t have to raise taxes, to make sure that we have quality construction jobs that will last for at least the next five years.”
When the casino opens, Blakeman said, Nassau 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.
Aside from legislative approval, Sands also must obtain zoning approval from the Town of Hempstead and file an application with the state’s licensing board for the casino.
Blakeman also exuded confidence in the Sands obtaining that license from the state board because he believes Long Island “is entitled” to one.
“I believe we have the best shot to get a license here in Nassau County and I am just so excited for the people in Nassau County that we have the opportunity to keep taxes down, to keep our community safe and to create jobs,” he said.
Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein said Blakeman “fought hard” in negotiations to assure that a proposal would not go forward if it did not have a first-class resort.
Goldstein told the approximate 100 residents and labor union representatives that Sands’ goal is to become integrated in the Nassau community and that the hotel will be “the best hotel in New York.”
“We will deliver the job you expect and you want in this community and you won’t be disappointed,” Goldstein said.
Aside from the $54 million payment to the county, Blakeman said, 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.
The Town of Hempstead, he said, will be receiving “significant revenue with a guarantee for the proceeds [Sands] receives and the taxes that are shared under the licensing agreement.”
Sands Vice President Ron Reese told Blank Slate Media in January that 80% of the gross gaming revenue goes to the state and 20% goes locally.
The local percentage would be split up between both Nassau and Suffolk County along with the Town of Hempstead, with Suffolk receiving 10% and Nassau and the town each receiving the remaining 5%.
The Sands will also be providing the Nassau County Police Department $1.8 million each year with escalation costs for police improvements, Blakeman said.
Reese also told Blank Slate Media that the hotel will be at least 800 rooms and the live performance venue will have a 5,000-7,500 seat capacity. Blakeman said the agreement includes a “workforce housing” component regardless of whether or not Sands obtains a gaming license, though there will not be a housing project or development.
If Sands is unable to obtain the gaming license, Blakeman said, Sands would still have to pay the $54 million to Nassau County and construct other aspects of the proposal aside from the casino. The community benefits Sands will provide, he said, would decrease if the gaming license is not obtained.
Blakeman also said the fate of the Nassau Coliseum would be in the hands of Las Vegas Sands, though he said he informed company officials of its’ significance to Long Island, specifically Nassau County.
“I’ve told them that I think the Coliseum is iconic,” Blakeman said. “I think that it’s a beautiful building…I’m hopeful that they find a use for the Coliseum, but again, that’s going to be within their discretion.”
The process leading up to the agreement included a handful of public meetings where residential input was taken into consideration. While attendees at Wednesday’s press conference cheered for the progress made, there have been some groups and entities that have opposed the casino, including Hofstra University, which neighbors the Nassau Hub.
Hofstra filed a lawsuit against the Nassau County Planning Commission last week, claiming a meeting they held surrounding the lease transfer violated executive session rules by improperly meeting, prematurely voted to close public comment and held a meeting before the lease negotiations were completed.
Hofstra has opposed the entertainment center proposed by Las Vegas Sands at the site of the Coliseum. A letter from Hofstra trustees published online in March said potential “traffic congestion, crime, economic harm to local business” would have a negative impact on the school community, which is directly adjacent to the area.
“The Nassau Hub is an entirely inappropriate location for a casino,” officials said. “There are other locations in and around New York City to site a casino that are not in such proximity to multiple educational institutions where so many young people live and learn.”
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.