Bally’s to run Trump Links through 2035 ‘win or lose’ casino bid, Chair Soo Kim says

Trump Golf Links in the Bronx is seen on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Trump Golf Links in the Bronx is seen on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Photo Max Blease

The giant letters spelling out former President Donald Trump’s last name next to the Hutchinson River Parkway will soon be gone now that The Trump Organization has sold the golf course formerly known as Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point to Bally’s Corporation, an entertainment company seeking one of three downstate casino licenses.

On Tuesday, Bally’s took over a 20-year lease the city granted to The Trump Organization in 2012 to operate the 18-hole course on public parkland atop a former landfill — the lease began in 2015 and is slated to end in 2035. While city officials have tried and failed to remove the controversial name from the Throggs Neck course, the change in management is tied to Bally’s interest in one of three promised unprecedented full casino licenses for NYC, Long Island and Westchester.

In his first newspaper interview about the purchase, Bally’s Chair Soohyung “Soo” Kim told the Bronx Times that despite the controversy the Trump name brought to the site, the course is run “fantastically” and the corporation plans to keep the entirety of the current staff.

“It’s in great shape and really not a lot has to change about what it is today,” he said. ” … In all honesty, it’s a great course and the former management here has done a good job of keeping it up and it’s our job to make sure that we maintain the very high standards and continue to build upon them.”

The company plans to work on building “even deeper community bridges than what currently exists today,” he added.

Kim would not specify how many tens of millions Bally’s paid The Trump Organization for the license to manage the course. He said that as part of the arrangement, Bally’s will pay the city “somewhat more” than The Trump Organization did to rent the course.

He refuted a claim that anonymous Bally’s representatives made to the New York Times in February that the company would only remove Trump’s name from the course if they were awarded a casino license. The process is already underway to officially change the course’s name to Bally’s Links, which he expects to be complete within weeks.

The name is already updated on Google Maps.

sign saying Trump Links in front of golf course
The former president’s name will soon no longer greet golfers to the public East Bronx course. Photo John Minchillo, AP

Whether or not Bally’s is successful in obtaining a casino license — a decision by the state’s Gaming Commission expected as early as this year — the company will continue to manage the golf course through the end of the lease, according to Kim.

“Win or lose the casino bid, we will be in the New York City golf management business through at least 2035,” he said.

He said that since the company manages one of the sports betting licenses in the state, having a physical presence is “good business.” Plus, the golf course is profitable, though he would not share how profitable.

As for whether the cost to play — which has been a point of criticism for the public amenity — will change, he said the company will discuss the price structure with the city.

“We have spoken already about ways to make it more community-friendly, and stay tuned on that,” he said, possibly nodding to a soon-to-be-announced shuttle bus that will help address transit obstacles in the East Bronx area.

And if Bally’s business venture goes according to plan, Kim is confident there is enough space on the property to continue operating the course alongside a casino resort with a hotel, event space and restaurants.

The site is a roughly 20-minute drive from both Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World in Queens, which already operate as “racinos,” casinos limited to slot machines and electronic table games — and also have horse racetracks — serving as likely contenders for two of the three full casino licenses.

Kim said that even though the Bally’s casino would be in the middle of the two other betting spots, he sees the location, which abuts the Whitestone Bridge, as the most conveniently located to serve customers not just from NYC but also surrounding areas like Connecticut, Long Island and northern New Jersey.

The Trump Organization said in a statement that it did not plan on selling the “trophy asset,” but Bally’s made an extraordinary offer.

“We wish them tremendous luck and are confident that Bally’s will continue to operate this exceptional facility in the same world-class manner,” the organization said.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes