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Las Vegas Sands lacks valid lease for Nassau Coliseum, judge rules - Newsday

By Scott Eidler and Vera Chines

Updated February 23, 2024 5:49 pm


A state judge on Friday said Las Vegas Sands lacks a valid lease to operate the Nassau Coliseum and the land around it, dealing another setback to the company's plan to develop a multibillion-dollar resort and casino there.


State Supreme Court Justice Sarika Kapoor, who had already struck down the company's lease with Nassau County, said a separate agreement Sands has with the Coliseum's previous leaseholder also is not valid. 


The ruling marks another win for Hostra University in its ongoing dispute with Nassau County, which owns the Coliseum and had granted Sands a 99-year lease to operate it.


Hofstra sued last April, arguing Nassau's planning commission violated open meetings laws when it transferred the lease from the Coliseum's former tenant, Nassau Live Center LLC. Kapoor in November ordered Nassau to redo the process and conduct an environmental review before considering a new lease. 


But the county argued that Sands held leaseholder rights under a private deal with Nassau Live Center LLC, and moved the development forward in the Town of Hempstead to begin environmental and zoning reviews. 


“The Court has issued another important ruling needed to protect the public’s rights under state and county laws," Hofstra attorney Adam Schuman said in a statement. "The Nassau Coliseum cannot be transferred or developed without a public hearing and environmental review first being properly conducted by the County, so that the public can provide its input to such critical decisions for the future of the County.” 


Chris Boyle, a spokesman for County Executive Bruce Blakeman, said the county attorney is reviewing the order. Sands officials declined to comment.


Steve Losquadro, special counsel for Hempstead Town, said: "The town just received the decision issued by the judge, we are carefully reviewing it, and will determine how it applies to the town." 


A valid lease was expected to boost Sands' chances of securing one of three competitive state gaming licenses to be awarded in the downstate region. 


Sands paid Nassau Live Center LLC $241 million to take over the Coliseum lease, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing also shows Sands made an initial $54 million payment to the county.


But in her 16-page decision, Kapoor wrote: "The assignment of the original lease ... is not a mere private transaction between nonparties. The fact remains that the assigned lease has been terminated."


She added: "Any new lease agreement between Nassau County and [Las Vegas Sands] would need to be in writing and comply with, among other things, the Nassau County administrative code and Open Meetings Law."


Casino opponents said they were "not surprised at all" by the ruling and called on Hempstead Town to pause its environmental review. 


"We want reassurances that control of the Nassau HUB land and coliseum operations have been returned to Nassau Live Center," according to a statement from Say NO to the Casino, a group of local residents. "The Nassau HUB is taxpayer-owned land, our elected officials should start treating it as such."

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