Published Monday, July 15, 2019 | 7:52 a.m.
Updated Monday, July 15, 2019 | 12:35 p.m.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Former New York Gov. David Paterson is joining Las Vegas Sands to lead the casino and resort developer's push for a casino in New York City.
Voters have already authorized up to three casinos for the nation's largest city, but under state law they can't be approved until 2023 at the earliest.
Paterson, who is joining Sands as a senior vice president, said that there's no reason to wait, and lawmakers should lift the moratorium next year.
"Is it going to happen in 2023 or 2020? Why not start three years earlier?" he said. "This is really a tremendous opportunity to create jobs in New York."
Competition for the lucrative New York City market will be fierce. MGM and Genting Group, which operate existing slot casinos in Yonkers and Queens, respectively, have already proposed turning their facilities into full casinos.
Voters approved up to seven casino licenses in 2013 — four for upstate, the part of New York outside the New York City area, and three for downstate, consisting of the city and its suburbs, including Long Island. Lawmakers agreed to delay the three downstate licenses to give a head start to the upstate facilities, all now open.
In addition to taxes, downstate casino operators will pay a license fee estimated at $500 million per casino. If allowed to enter the market before 2023, casinos in the city would also have to pay an early entry fee to the upstate casinos.
Paterson, a Democrat who served as governor from 2008-2010, began consulting for Las Vegas-based Sands earlier this year.
"I really like the fact that they want to do it right," Paterson said of Sands.
Lawmakers adjourned their 2019 session last month without voting on proposals to speed up the process for licensing casinos in the city. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who succeeded Paterson as governor, has so far shrugged off talk of allowing early bidding on the licenses.
He sounded a skeptical note again on Monday when asked expanding gambling options in New York.
"I'm not a great fan of the gaming industry, but it's here, it's real, states all around New York are doing it," Cuomo said. "Obviously more people lose in gambling than win, and if there's not a significant economic benefit to the state, or a region of the state, then I would rather not do it."
MGM hopes to receive a license to convert its Empire City Casino from a slot facility and harness racing track to a full casino.
"Accelerating the conversion of Empire City to a fully licensed casino would immediately create new, well-paying jobs and billions in economic impact that could fund schools in Westchester and across the state," President and CEO Uri Clinton said in a statement Monday.
Genting did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Monday.
Paterson said it's too early to talk about possible sites for facilities in the city but added that Queens is attractive because of the presence of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.