Water Club owner wants to open casino on NYC’s East River



Manhattan’s East River waterfront is being eyed as a location for a “Monte Carlo”-style casino that would immediately become the world’s “hottest” gambling facility, its promoter says.

The planned East River casino submitted to the state Gaming Commission is the brainchild of Water Club restaurateur Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe and would be located next to the floating eatery off East 30th Street.

At least nine casino operators expressed interest to vie for three downstate casino licenses, according to preliminary outlines submitted to the gaming commission.

It was not clear from O’Keeffe’s proposal who would be his partner to operate the gambling side of things.

He envisioned offering gamblers “classic” table games and no slot machines.

“In the Borough of Manhattan, from river to river, this is the most viable location to place a smaller boutique (Monte Carlo) style casino that is easily expandable,” O’Keeffe wrote in his proposal. “An upscale Monte Carlo style casino on the East Side, Mid-Manhattan, and very visible along the FDR Drive on the East River.”

The inside of the Resorts World Casino NYC at Aqueduct
At least nine casino operators expressed interest in the three downstate casino licenses.

The casino would be 24,000 square feet and would have a modest 100-car parking lot.

He said 450 feet of “open deep water pier” could be used to build more gaming facility space or “float in a custom casino.”

O’Keeffe, who also owns the waterfront River Cafe in Brooklyn’s DUMBO, also emphasized high rollers would have accessibility to the casino from the nearby heliport and private ferry service.

River gambling is the way to go, he said.

Inside the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY.
O’Keeffe’s proposed casino would be located near East 30th Street in Manhattan.
David McGlynn

“Building on the waterfront is far less expensive than building in Midtown Manhattan. It is the easiest deal for the state and the city to make, as it already exists, and is ready to go,” O’Keeffe said.

“New York, The World’s Capital, should have a beautiful and upscale casino (so maybe the next James Bond can play a hand of poker in New York),” he added. “One casino in Manhattan will end up as the hottest casino in the world.”

Among the other casino operators who submitted proposals are MGM Resorts and Genting. MGM owns Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway and Genting runs Resorts World at Aqueduct raceway.

Both operators would be interested in applying for a license to convert their slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

Citi Field
The Queens Civic Congress opposed a casino opening near Citi Field.
Getty Images

Others who submitted preliminary proposals: Bally’s, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock International, UE Resorts which operates the Okada casino in Manila; and Rush Street Gaming, which operates a casino in upstate Schenectady.

Elected officials and community groups were also allowed to submit their input on casinos.

There was strong opposition to a casino opening near Citi Field, the NY Mets home in Flushing — including from the influential Queens Civic Congress, a coalition of 60 neighborhood groups.

A recent study conducted by the gaming commission estimated that opening three new downstate casinos — which include the conversions of Aqueduct and Yonkers and opening a new casino in Manhattan — could generate between $420 million and $630 million in revenues per year.

Operators and state officials hope that licenses could be issued within six months.


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