In the highly competitive game to win a casino license, casino companies and real estate developers are making a lot of promises.

“We’re also announcing tonight neighborhood projects, delivering on needs from the community. Everything from a health clinic to addiction and mental health services, to senior and youth programing that’s desperately needed and wanted in the communities around us,” said Michael Sullivan, the chief of staff for Steve Cohen, the owner of the New York Mets.

What You Need To Know

  • Gaming companies and real estate developers are competing for three casino licenses in the downstate region
  • As part of that competition, they are offering big perks for their local communities
  • These types of community benefit agreements have been the subject of controversy in the past

Last week, Sullivan and his team unveiled a plan to pour money into the Queens neighborhood where they want to develop a casino in the shadow of Citi Field.

They are committing to spend more than $1 billion in what they are calling "community benefits," including a food hall, a revamped subway station, a trust that would dole out grants to local community groups, a health clinic and a youth and senior center.

This is an attempt to sweeten the pot — to curry favor with communities to get support for a casino project.

Last year, Las Vegas Sands struck a deal with Nassau County, committing to millions of dollars in rent payments for the Nassau Coliseum, more in so-called public safety payments to the county every year and a brand new police substation.

“We will be receiving from Las Vegas Sands $1.8 million per year with escalation clause for police improvements in the whole area surrounding the coliseum,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said at the time.

That deal has since become the subject of litigation.

Nonetheless, these payments to local organizations or promises of community centers and police stations are not required as part of the casino licensing process, but applicants hope they will convince local elected officials to back their plans.

It is a practice the city has seen before, experts say. With big development deals come promises of how the community will get more amenities.

“All of this is meant to give the impression that the company that’s going to get the license is somehow doing good for the society and not just receiving something in return,” said Marc Edelman, a professor of law at Baruch College. “In this case, I think it's especially important to try to convince the public of this because there are some endemic problems that relate to having a casino.”

Cohen's commitment, in particular, has sparked jockeying from applicants.

For instance, real estate giant Related Companies and hotel and casino company Wynn Resorts want to build a casino on the west side of Manhattan in Hudson Yards. When NY1 asked what kind of benefits it would offer to the community, a spokesman said more than any other project.

“Because of our unparalleled location, brands and project scale that will attract global attention and generate maximum revenue, Wynn New York City will generate more direct jobs, taxes and benefits than any other bid,” a spokesmen for the project said in a statement.