Bally’s Casino Proposal May Hinge on Removal of One Word: Trump

For years, anyone going across the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in New York has had to cast their eyes on former President Donald J. Trump’s surname, emblazoned in paving stones at the entrance to the public golf course he controls in the Bronx.

For most New Yorkers, it is a peculiar, particular affront — made worse by the high greens fees charged at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point: $195 during the weekends, out of reach for many residents in one of the country’s poorest counties.

But in the heated bid for one of three new casino licenses in New York, Bally’s Corporation is promising to strip the former president’s name from the golf course.

The excising of the Trump name comes with a catch: Bally’s will only do so if it wins the right to build a casino where the Trump clubhouse now stands, according to two Bally’s officials, speaking anonymously so as not to damage ongoing negotiations with the former president’s company.

One of those officials said that the company recognizes that Mr. Trump is not particularly well-liked in his hometown, and any company’s association with his name is likely to kill an otherwise viable casino bid.

The Race for a New York City Casino

The competition for three casino licenses in the New York City region begins in earnest this year.

  • A High-Stakes Contest: When will the casino locations be announced? Who gets to decide where they will be located? Here’s what to know.
  • The Proposals: Developers are crafting bids heavy on amenities and less focused on gambling. These are the most likely sites and their proposals.
  • Manhattan Bids: Take a closer look at proposals for a Monte Carlo-style casino atop Saks Fifth Avenue, a glittering vertical casino in Times Square and mixed-use project near the United Nations.

Bally’s said it reached a deal with the Trump Organization in December that enables it to take control of 17 acres of the 192-acre golf course, should it so desire. And if it exercises the option, it will be entitled to erase Trump’s name from the property, according to the officials.

A spokesman for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Following the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol, former Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to terminate the Trump Organization’s lease for the public golf course, arguing that the city had the right to do so because the former president had engaged in criminal activity, and the golf course was on city land. City lawyers argued that the group did not fulfill its contractual obligation to maintain “a first class tournament quality daily fee golf course.”

That argument did not hold up in court. The former president retained control of the course, and his name remained. Mr. Trump’s name has already been removed from some private properties in New York, including the Trump SoHo Hotel, now the Dominick.

Now, that name — and New York City’s desire to get rid of it — is central to the Bally’s pitch for a casino license.

“I think the community and I would welcome that name change, especially if they make the course affordable so people who live there can actually afford to play a round of golf in their own district,” said Nathalia Fernandez, a state senator whose district encompasses the site and who will have a say in approving any casino that goes there.

Bally’s is among at least 10 bidders in a stiff competition for one of three newly available New York casino licenses. SL Green Realty Corp., which calls itself the city’s biggest office landlord, is bidding to build a vertical casino in Times Square. Related Companies, the developer of the biggest privately built mixed-use development in the country, is bidding to build a casino with Wynn Resorts on the west side of Manhattan. Hedge fund manager and New York Mets owner Steven Cohen is planning to bid for a casino near Citi Field in Queens. There are proposals for Coney Island, and Long Island, and Yonkers.

They vary widely in size and ambition. The metrics by which the state will judge the bids, and the timeline by which they do so, remain unclear. But the state is counting on casino revenue to help bolster the finances of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s transit system and has yet to recover from the pandemic.

Bally’s, which has been scouring New York City for potential casino locations for at least three years, is proposing to build a roughly $2.5 billion project in the Bronx.

“We have the right to exercise our option at any time to make a payment and essentially step into their lease,” Soo Kim, the company’s chairman, said in an interview on Monday.

The 17 acres the company is likely to use in their bid encompass the golf course’s parking lot, clubhouse and practice facilities — most everything excluding the 18-hole course. It encompasses the “Trump Links” sign at the entrance to the golf course, Mr. Kim said. But the site is a complicated one. Much of it is built on former landfill, rendering construction there difficult.

Mr. Kim is also negotiating with the Trump Organization for the rest of the 192 acres. There are less than 20 years left on the Trump Organization’s lease with the city, and the city would have to approve any new use for the site.

In an interview, Mr. Kim said the company also has a lease option for nine acres in Willets Point, and he did not rule out submitting two casino bids for the separate sites.

The company recently took a similar path in Chicago, proposing bids at two sites and

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