The sole bidder seeking to build a casino in the Bronx has moved one step closer to realizing its pitch, by buying out the multimillion-dollar lease on a public golf course operated by Donald J. Trump’s company.
The first order of business: removing the Trump name.
Bally’s Corporation, a large casino and entertainment company, has purchased the license to operate the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a 180-acre golf course that the city had tried, and failed, to wrest from the control of Mr. Trump’s company.
The price of the transaction, which required approval from the Parks Department and the New York City comptroller, has not been disclosed, but one person familiar with the deal said the company would pay at least tens of millions of dollars for the remainder of the contract, which is expected to expire in 2035. The deal, which was first reported by The New York Post, is scheduled to close on Tuesday.
The new operator is expected to change the name of the golf course to Bally’s Links, according to people familiar with the transfer, removing the giant Trump sign embossed in stone that greets commuters exiting the Whitestone Bridge.
Bally’s officials said in February that they would seek to strike out the name of the former president, whose association with the project might sour their chances of winning a license.
The change was welcome news to some elected officials. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio, following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, tried to terminate the Trump Organization’s lease of the public golf course, arguing that the city had the right to do so because the former president had engaged in criminal activity. The argument failed in court.
“I am delighted that Trump’s name will no longer deface city parkland,” Brad Lander, the city comptroller, said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.
The proposal is expected to be one of at least 11 bids for up to three casino licenses in the New York City area.
The state requires that bidders demonstrate control of the property where they would like to build a casino. With the transfer of the golf course lease, Bally’s is now closer to meeting that requirement. But several other obstacles lie in its path, not least of which is the ferocity of competition for a piece of what is widely regarded as the last major untapped market for full-scale casinos in the United States.
The Bally’s bid faces several potential hurdles.
The golf course is close to a lucrative slot-machine parlor in Yonkers that is also bidding for a full-scale casino license. And it is situated on city parkland, which means the state legislature would have to “alienate” it — essentially decertify it as parkland — in order for it to be used for a casino.
Steven A. Cohen, a billionaire hedge fund manager, faces a similar obstacle with his proposal to build a casino on parkland next to Citi Field, the Queens stadium where the New York Mets play.
The golf course site, at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge connecting the Bronx to Queens, is also poorly served by mass transit.
In what appears to be an effort to address that issue and win community support, Bally’s is planning to pay for a shuttle bus connecting the golf course to the nearby business and shopping districts and other transit options, according to local officials.
No casino bid can move forward in the state-mandated approval process without support from local elected officials, and casino bidders have taken pains to ingratiate themselves with their respective communities (with varying levels of success).
Marjorie Velázquez, the local city councilwoman, supports the casino proposal. But neither the state senator nor the state assemblyman representing the area have yet taken a position on the matter.
Nathalia Fernandez, the local state senator, applauded the imminent removal of the Trump name from the golf course, and expressed hope that Bally’s would lower greens fees there, which can cost as much as $205 for city residents.
But she remained equivocal on the notion of a casino on the site.
“It’s a pretty residential corner of the Bronx and I’m really concerned for the community, and what good it can do and what bad it can do,” she said.
Michael Benedetto, Ms. Fernandez’s counterpart in the State Assembly, has not taken a formal position on the Bally’s bid either, but he suggested the shuttle bus investment gave him more confidence in the company.
“When you see things like that, you kind of say, ‘Wow, they are really serious about coming in here and they are serious about being good neighbors to us,’” Mr. Benedetto said. “So that certainly influences us in what we do.”
The casino bidding process is still in its early days. The New York State Gaming Commission responded to the first of two required rounds of questions from developers in late August, months later than expected. It could be months before developers submit their official applications.
Qualifying bids require a minimum $500 million capital investment, and successful bidders will each pay at least an additional $500 million gambling license fee.
The Trump Golf Links will soon join other projects in New York City that have expunged the former president’s name, including hotels and apartment buildings. In late 2017, the owner of the Trump SoHo paid to remove Mr. Trump’s name from what is now the Dominick Hotel.
Ben Protess contributed reporting.