Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are all for the redevelopment of the industrial Willets Point neighborhood next to Citi Field – as long as it includes a Las Vegas-style casino. Last year, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to overhaul the area into a LEED-seeking complex complete with a mall, movie theaters, and low-income housing, but Wilpon and Katz had a different proposal. They wanted to transform the area into a gambling strip that would rake in money to help them recoup the $162 million they lost in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal, but it seems like their plans have been dashed – for now.
Bloomberg originally vetoed the casino idea, as live-dealer gambling is still illegal in New York. Despite this, the Mets’ development arm, Sterling Equities, went ahead with creating a proposal for a Vegas-style casino and hotel complete with gaming tables, slots, 500 guest rooms and 1.8 million square feet of retail. Skating around the live-dealer gambling issue, they partnered with Shinnecock Indian Nation as operators, as Native Americans are the only ones exempt from that law. Sweetening the deal with an offer of $100 million for the 62 acres, the team thought the revenue from the casino could help them not only recoup losses, but also afford more expensive players, and up the salaries of current ones.
But despite these ideas, the plan was dismissed as Bloomberg chose the Willets Point United and NYC Park Advocates. Wilpon and Katz were offered a consolation prize – 23 acres to develop a $3 billion retail and entertainment complex.
Although the casino issue is dead for now, some think that it could be resurrected should state legislature allow live-dealer gambling. We can only hope the irony of the Mets’ strict anti-gambling rules for its players will be enough to keep the casino from becoming a reality in the future.
Via NY Post