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High Stakes: Will Zoning Changes Allow Casinos in NYC?

New York City may allow developers to build casinos in 2024—under certain conditions.

According to a November 27th press release, the City Planning Commission (CPC) has just begun the public review process for a zoning text amendment allowing gaming facilities in NYC. Facilities would have to be licensed by the New York State Gaming Commission, and could only be located in certain commercial or manufacturing districts. Furthermore, only up to three casinos could be approved for development. These restrictions indicate an effort to mitigate the potential backlash from local communities, which have significant power in the application process.

The timing of these zoning changes is not coincidental. In April, the State of New York authorized up to three casino licenses for downstate, ten years after upstate casinos were approved in 2013. City officials hope that casinos could bring economic growth and job opportunities to NYC, which is at a disadvantage to suburban downstate applicants that already permit gaming facilities.

“As the state considers proposals for casinos downstate, it's important that we create a level playing field for applicants within New York City so they can compete for this opportunity,” said Dan Garodnick, CPC Chair and Director of the Department of City Planning. “This text amendment would avoid duplicating the state's rigorous licensing process, which includes local representation on the CAC, while setting up a rational framework for consideration within our zoning.”

The application process opened in January 2023, and several developers have already begun bidding for one of three available licenses.

Even if the zoning changes are approved, community opposition has the power to stop a casino bid before it reaches state regulators for review. Locals have the highest stake in casino development; their communities and daily lives will be the most directly affected. Each application will undergo a formal investigation into its community support, conducted by a local Community Advisory Committee (CAC). At least two-thirds of this committee must approve of the project before it proceeds to state regulators. Therefore, it’s imperative that developers consider local support a significant factor in their bid.

The zoning changes are still under review, so it’s too early to tell how the city will be affected. NYC may not get all three licenses, or any at all. Regardless, the proposition marks an important shift in zoning laws that may soon affect not only NYC, but cities across the country.

The experts at Outsource Consultants, Inc. are prepared to answer any questions you may have about this topic, or any other topic concerning building codes and zoning. For more information on the potential upcoming zoning changes, please see the resources below.