Yang backs NYC casino idea despite 'many downsides'

New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said Wednesday that the city could benefit financially from the development of a casino despite the "many downsides" of the business.

As the city faces a $15 billion deficit after nearly a year of COVID-19, developers are looking toward the possibility of opening a casino that could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, according to The New York Times.

"We need big ideas," Yang tweeted with a link to the article. "There are many downsides of casinos but the upside is $700m+ recurring annually largely from tourists now going to CT and NJ. That's money for teachers, hospitals and other services. We should be trying to grow revenue where possible."

He added that he would rather "NY and NYC get that gaming revenue and activity rather than see it all go to neighboring states."

Real estate investment company Vornado Realty Trust, casino hotel owner Morris Bailey and real estate developer L&L Holding Company have each expressed interest in building a New York City casino, and the state is expected to issue three new casino licenses in 2023, the Times reported.

Democratic New York state Sen. James Skoufis introduced the idea of bringing new casinos to New York during an August virtual town hall, according to the Mid Hudson News.

Skoufis said that a single casino license could cost $500 million, and he proposed accelerating the licensing procedure to 2020 or early 2021.

The New York City area is expected to receive the licenses since a change to the state's constitution in 2013 allowed for the construction of seven casinos across the state, but New York only permitted licenses to four upstate operators initially, the Times reported in 2013.

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"The casinos themselves, their openings, would not be accelerated. They would still open, as the schedule stands now, in 2023," he said during the town hall, "but, we would accelerate the licensing payments that are associated."

Yang, an entrepreneur and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, launched his mayoral campaign on Jan. 14, hoping to replace outgoing Bill de Blasio with an audacious pitch for a universal basic income as a headline policy.

He said during a campaign launch speech last week that he sees a "crisis" in New York City and wants to help. One of his most popular policy ideas, which he campaigned on during his run for president, is to give New York City residents classed as living in "extreme poverty" about $2,000 a year.

"This program can then be grown over time as it receives more funding from public and philanthropic organizations, with the vision of eventually ending poverty in New York City altogether," he says on his campaign website.