Mets owner Steve Cohen's casino plan faces legal, financial problems

August 16, 2022


New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s casino construction plan on Citi Field’s parking lot may be put on indefinite hold following a series of legal and financial problems.


The legal problem lies in the fact that the parking lot is not only a public space, but the franchise also leased the land from the city, which means proceeding with the plan will require state legislators to override the legal public trust doctrine since private development on public land is generally prohibited.

Furthermore, replacing the parking lot would further complicate the franchise's hundreds of millions of dollars allocated as repayment on municipal bonds, THE CITY's Katie Honan noted.

The Mets will also have to find ways to make up for the parking lot, and although it may resort to build a multistory car park, that would introduce significant alterations to the entire construction plan.

Tiffany Galvin-Cohen, a spokesperson for the owner, said via THE CITY that Cohen is still considering every possible option and will remain in touch with all parties involved with the gambling center project in Queens.

More on Mets' casino project, lobbying efforts

Reports hold that Cohen's poker and chips dream in Queens began back in January this year as he was proposing the proposal to both local and city officials.

The casino rumor in New York City is slowly turning into reality as governor Kathy Hochul had proposed to roll in three additional gambling licenses downstate, which came at the right time after some of the gambling operators keen on opening their businesses in New York had injected money into Hochul's $21.9 million campaign fund.

Among those operators include Meadowlands Racetrack via owner Jeff Gural, Las Vegas Sands Corp, Hard Rock Cafe International (USA) Inc, Hard Rock Cafe Licensing Operating and Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment.

One of the donators to the governor's war chest also includes both Cohen and his wife Alexandra, as per Bernadette Hogan of the New York Post. This and the fact that Cohen was involved in serious lobbying efforts in regards to the gambling center near the Mets' home turf shows that the veteran businessman means serious business.

Public trust doctrine

As cited previously, it would require state legislators to override the legal public trust doctrine. Looking at the most recent case in the past, the previous Mets' owner had tried to build a mall in the same parking lot. However, it was struck down in 2017 by the State Court of Appeals, citing public trust doctrine reasons, Honan reported.

There are also other concerns regarding the nearby area of Citi Field's parking lot.

"The lots include those spaces around the stadium as well as ancillary parking lots inside Flushing Meadows-Corona Park that are used for railroad commuters and for other events, including the U.S. Open, according to the financing deal," Honan wrote.

Financial-wise, the franchise's financial deal with the city would also require a massive overhaul. The Mets and Citi Field owner Queens Ballpark Company LLC, leased the land from the city, and the stadium's construction was covered in parts by municipal bonds via the NY Economic Development Corporation's commission, the NYC Industrial Development Agency. Former owner Fred Wilpon agreed on the deal in 2006, which was worth around $650 million in bond financing.

"Even if Steve Cohen succeeded in getting state alienation, and a casino license, the Mets will still need to comply with their lease agreements regarding the number of parking spots. It's not so easy to just say you want to build a casino in a city parking lot," a source familiar with the lease agreement told THE CITY.

Gus Anderson
Gus Anderson is a gambling wizard. As a kid he dreamt about becoming a Tennis, Hockey and Golf professional but ended up as a gambling professional with focus on both sports & casino.