Sands casino lease annulled by Appeals Court

Sands casino lease annulled by Appeals Court
A rendering of the Las Vegas Sands' casino and entertainment venue proposal. (Rendering courtesy of Las Vegas Sands)

An appellate court Wednesday denied Nassau County’s request to maintain the lease agreement with Las Vegas Sands governing the $4 billion casino and resort plan at the site of the Nassau Coliseum. 

The decision from the State Appeals Court coincides with November’s decision from the State Supreme Court ruling to void 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 stemmed 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.

“We are pleased that the courts continue to uphold the public’s rights to transparency and participation in these important decisions regarding the future use of the Nassau Hub,” Adam Schuman, an attorney for the university, said in a statement.

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. 

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.

The Say No To the Casino Civic Association, which has been strongly against the proposal, said they believe the county “violated Open Meetings Laws and skirted its responsibility to conduct a thorough environmental review when the Legislature voted to approve the lease transfer.” 

Sands is currently in pursuit of a state gaming license that would allow Las Vegas-style casino gambling alongside other potential suitors. A formal application process has not been opened yet by the state Gaming Commission.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, whose administration negotiated the lease earlier this year, said the county remains confident about the plans with Sands.

“We will continue to move forward and not be deterred by minor distractions as we have the best application of any other area,” Blakeman said in a statement. 

At the time of approval for the lease earlier this year, Blakeman said Sands would 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.

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