Billionaire hedge fund titan Steve Cohen is pursuing the rights to build a casino in Queens with the same zeal with which he has stockpiled the high-priced roster of his Mets, according to a report.
Cohen, whose net worth is valued by Bloomberg at $13.1 billion through his ownership of the Point72 Asset Management hedge fund, has hired an army of lobbyists to persuade local officials to grant him a license to operate one of three casinos planned for the New York City area.
“He has hired the best team that money can buy,” Warren Schreiber, who heads a Queens civic organization opposed to the casino, told Bloomberg News.
Cohen was the largest single donor to Mayor Eric Adams’s 2021 election campaign, pumping $2 million into outside PACs to support Adams in the Democratic primary, Bloomberg reported.
HIs chief of staff at Point72, Michael Sullivan, has contributed to the political campaigns of elected officials who will grant approval for a casino license, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers from Queens, according to Bloomberg News.
The Mets owner, who is vying for the prized license against heavyweight competitors such as the Adelson family-owned Las Vegas Sands, Resorts World, Related Cos. and Wynn Resorts, is reportedly partnering with Seminole Hard Rock on a bid to build a gaming site on land adjacent to Citi Field in Flushing, Queens.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida acquired the Hard Rock brand in 2007.
The company operates dozens of casinos and resorts throughout North America, including the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Cohen and Seminole Hard Rock would build the casino on a parking lot just west of Citi Field.
To win a license, Cohen must first pay a $1 million application fee. If he is chosen, he must then fork over $500 million for the license itself.
Anyone who snags a casino license must then commit to spending an additional $500 million as a minimal investment in the project, according to Bloomberg News.
Judging by his ownership of the Mets, money is no obstacle to Cohen, who has reportedly retained the services of eight lobbying firms who are pressing elected officials in both city and state government.
The Mets this year have the highest payroll in major league history at $353 million.
Last year, a Cohen ally, Vincent Tortorella, formed New Green Willets, a limited liability company that is planning to spend at least $729,000 this year in lobbying fees for licensing, gaming, and land use issues.
Cohen’s wife, Alexandra, donated $117,300 to New York State’s Democratic Committee last year, according to The City.
Sullivan gave some $35,000 total to several state lawmakers who represent the areas in and around Citi Field.
Last month, Queens Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry introduced legislation that would allow Cohen to redevelop the overflow parking lots around the baseball team’s Citi Field into a casino and entertainment complex.
In addition, Cohen has spent more than $1 million on a public relations blitz including “visioning” sessions with Queens residents as well as social media campaigns and a web site called “Queens Future.”
The “Queens Future” website makes no explicit mention of a casino. Instead, it speaks about an “opportunity” to “re-imagine this space and transform our future.”
A casino in the five boroughs would be a cash cow for whoever owns it as well as for the state, which would get a cut of the profits.
An analysis commissioned by the state found that a casino in Queens could potentially generate $1.9 billion per year by 2025.
A casino in Flushing would be particularly advantageous for Cohen given the large Asian immigrant population in Queens — a coveted demographic..
One possible stumbling block to a Cohen-owned casino is the state’s requirement of a background disclosure form where applicants attest to their “integrity, honesty, good character and reputation.”
In 2014, Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital was forced to pay a $1.8 billion penalty to the federal government after pleading guilty to wire fraud and securities fraud.
Cohen, who was never charged criminally, was accused of failing to prevent insider trading at the company, which he founded in 1992 and which bears his initials.
The Post has sought comment from Cohen.
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