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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mets Owner Steve Cohen’s Parking-Lot Casino Hopes Are Dying

  • The state senator proposed legislation on Tuesday to allow for a Citi Field ballpark village—but not a casino.
  • New York’s gaming commission said in March it won’t award licenses until the end of 2025 and bids can’t be submitted until next March.
Jun 4, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; Exterior view of Citi Field prior to a Major League Baseball game between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays at Citi Field.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Mets owner Steve Cohen has watched his team lose eight of its last 10 games to fall 10 games under .500, while he struggles to bring a casino to Citi Field. 

On Tuesday, New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos announced she will not introduce legislation required to advance the project, which falls under her district. Cohen will now attempt to work around Ramos. 

“Seventy-five percent of my constituents have expressed that they do not wish to have a casino in our backyard,” Ramos said in a news conference Tuesday. “I would be very surprised, and, frankly, offended if someone would try to go around me and what the people in my district wish. We, I believe, are being very clear about not wanting a casino near our homes, and I don’t think anyone should be able to override that.”

Cohen needs Ramos to approve legislation that would allow him to use Citi Field’s parking lots for commercial purposes, which is part of a growing trend to turn the areas around ballparks into entertainment districts. The Cardinals’ Ballpark Village was one of the first of its kind in 2014 and other teams have followed suit. But Cohen, baseball’s richest owner, wants more than a bunch of bars and restaurants. He wants to have New York City’s first full-service casino, which would be a gold mine given the city’s population and top-market status. To do so, he partnered with Hard Rock to get one of three open gaming licenses in downstate New York. 

Cohen has dubbed the project “Metropolitan Park” and his ability to win a gaming license is out of Ramos’s control. New York’s gaming commission said in March it won’t award licenses until the end of 2025 and bids can’t be submitted until next March. But getting it does nothing without the ability to break ground on the parking lots and put it to use. The legislation session runs through next month and Cohen plans to keep trying while it convenes. 

On Tuesday, Ramos introduced an alternative bill that allows Cohen to build around his parking lots—but not for a casino. 

“While we respect Senator Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” said Karl Rickett, a spokesperson for Cohen’s group, in a statement. “As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions, and the local community we are confident that we have the best project in the best location.”

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