ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former New York Gov. David Paterson is joining Las Vegas Sands to lead the casino and resort developer’s push for a casino in New York City.
Voters have already authorized up to three casinos for the nation’s largest city, but state law currently says they can’t be approved until 2023 at the earliest.
Paterson, who is joining Sands as a senior vice president, said that there’s no reason to wait, and that lawmakers should lift the moratorium next year.
“Is it going to happen in 2023 or 2020? Why not start three years earlier?” he said. “This is really a tremendous opportunity to create jobs in New York.”
Competition for the lucrative New York City market will be fierce. MGM and Genting Group, which operate existing slot casinos in Yonkers and Queens, respectively, have already proposed turning their facilities into full casinos.
Voters approved up to seven casino licenses in 2013 — four for upstate, the part of New York outside the New York City area, and three for downstate, consisting of the city and its suburbs, including Long Island. Lawmakers agreed to delay the three downstate licenses to give a head start to the upstate facilities, all now open.
In addition to taxes, downstate casino operators will pay a license fee estimated at $500 million per casino. If allowed to enter the market before 2023, casinos in the city would also have to pay an early entry fee to the upstate casinos.
Paterson, a Democrat who served as governor from 2008-2010, began consulting for Las Vegas-based Sands earlier this year.
“I really like the fact that they want to do it right,” Paterson said of Sands. While it’s too early to talk about possible sites for facilities in the city, he said, Queens is an attractive possibility due to the presence of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.
Genting and MGM did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Monday.
Lawmakers adjourned their 2019 session last month without voting on proposals to speed up the process for licensing casinos in the city. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who succeeded Paterson as governor, has so far shrugged off talk of allowing early bidding on the licenses.
“I am very skeptical about some casino deal put together by casino operators promising billions of dollars and everybody’s happy,” Cuomo said last spring.