Winners & Losers: Gambling in my Backyard

If, like me, you live in America and pay attention to the gambling scene, you can’t help but see endless reports about Podunk towns debating whether to legalize one form of gambling or the other. Frankly, none of it interests me all that much. The likelihood that I will go to, say, Danville, Virginia, to play blackjack is a mega longshot.

However, the one story of this ilk that does vibe me up is the back-and-forth over gambling coming to New York City, the place where I live.

For years, New Yorkers have had to settle for online casinos as the plans for bricks-and-mortar (or steel and glass) options have been sketchy and intentionally vague. Proposals were in the planning stages and nothing but the players – including Wynn, Caesars, MGM and Hard Rock – had been revealed.

That changed this past week when Wynn unveiled preliminary plans for its proposed casino resort, which would be in a neighborhood called Hudson Yards (pictured below), on the western edge of lower Midtown Manhattan. It’s a pretty speedy subway ride from my house.

hudson yards new york
Image credit: James Morehead

As I have been made to understand it, there are three licenses to be given out in one of the biggest, richest, most risk-embracing cities in the world. Two are likely to go to the existing racetracks, owned by MGM and Genting. Having already written a fair amount about this, I am rooting for Wynn to snag the third.

As a friend of mine put it after Steve Wynn drew heat under accusations of sexual misconduct in the casino that bears his name (as a result, he wound up having to disassociate from the operation), “Wynn may be a terrible guy, but he builds great casinos.”

The aesthetic of Wynn remains embedded in the company’s DNA. All of the Wynn properties – I’ve seen Vegas (pictured below), Macau, Boston – are great joints that look cool but are sophisticated, feature top-notch restaurants and entertainment, and run like clockwork.

Wynn Casino Las Vegas
Image credit: Scott Webb

The outpost that Wynn hopes to open in New York plays to form: sleek, with lots of greenery, fancy outdoor space, a public school for 750 kids (I would send my offspring there if they were of age – there would be no shortage of funds) and a community facility. The whole shebang is budgeted at $12 billion.

Out of the gate, I was putting my money on Wynn to win the coveted license that will rake in a fortune for moving New Yorkers away from new online casinos and into a brand-new gambling palace.

Residents and visitors to the city are are champing at the bit to hit the tables and blow dough in slot machines.

That said, if there is a fourth license dealt out, I’d like that one to go to the wild card in the Big Apple’s pack of would-be casino bosses: a developer by the name of Stefan Soloviev.

He’s a tattooed billionaire with, as he put it, “at least 20” children, a set of quadruplets, and an ex-wife who had been the nanny for a couple next door. He likes to smoke to cigars and pose without a shirt. Soloviev is partnered with Mohegan Sun and he once considered a Ferris wheel as part of the plan (that element has since been scuttled).

Still alive in his dream scenario: a museum devoted to democracy (it would include his pieces of the Berlin Wall) and other cool elements that go beyond his proposed subterranean gambling den.

The other potential options – including a Caesars Palace casino in Times Square – don’t exactly get my gambling juices flowing. Soloviev and Wynn, though, with two very different operations in different parts of the city? I say, “Shuffle up and deal, baby!”

Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.