Times Square Casino – Opponents, Factors and Possible Outcome
Christmas may just have come early for a certain segment of New York society. And, while it isn’t exactly in need of more tourists, being arguably one of the busiest cities in the world, that is something that could well happen following the latest revelation that has split opinion among the Big Apple’s power brokers.
A city that has virtually everything, being the ‘city that never sleeps’, there is perhaps one noticeable, glaring difference compared to most big cities; something that astute difference-makers have recently picked up on.
While this may have been in the pipeline for a while, the news reveal sent a number in the city reeling. That is thanks to the major, influential developer SL Green Realty Corporation which has partnered with gambling behemoth, Caesars Entertainment to build a mega-complex includ
Caesars Casino at Times Square
Times Square, Manhattan - one of the busiest areas in the country, has been pinpointed as the ideal spot to house this development, with this facing stiff opposition. The location has transformed from being one of the most dangerous and seediest places in the city into one that is a major magnet.
The specific building that Caesars Entertainment has identified is 1515 Broadway, which is a 54-storey tower that is situated between 44th and 45th streets. Currently, it is the headquarters of media group, Viacom in addition to the Minskoff Theatre, which has played home to the musical production of ‘Lion King.’
However, one move that may strengthen the bid from Caesars, is that included in the development, there will be the inclusion of a theatre, which would mean that the “show can go on,” with the Lion King still able to continue its run.
Right in the center of the Broadway theatre district, as well as being tourist central, it is easy to understand why there has been considerable uproar circling this daring proposal. For a percentage in the city, this news will no doubt have triggered an exciting salivation. The prospect of a land-based casino in the center of New York is likely to appeal to certain people - especially those who feel like they have been waiting forever for this to happen!
Whether this is people of a certain demographic or even occupation, with Wall Street merely just next door, home to some of the most affluent people in the world and gamblers by their very nature, given their day jobs as bankers, or even frequent visitors to Las Vegas, there could certainly be a rallying call for this to materialize.
Times Square Casino vs the Opposition
Make no mistake, there is substantial opposition to this development from a number of sources, while there are also other major factors that could certainly have an influence on whether this gets approval from the city elite.
Not least, there is the fact that Times Square is one of the densely populated areas in the city, both from the number of buildings it already plays home to; particularly Broadway theatres, as well as the amount of traffic, both in terms of vehicles and pedestrians at any given time in the day.
Construction of such an ambitious development would certainly have a major disruption on everyone’s day-to-day lives. Whether this limits the number of people that business can draw in on a daily basis, due to the work involved, or increased traffic - these are certainly factors that will definitely play a part.
Although the number of pedestrians in Times Square on a daily basis is roughly back to pre-pandemic levels, the theatres are still experiencing a struggle to get back to their previous box office figures, which are currently lagging behind.
One major opponent to the construction of a new casino, which has the ability to halt and even block the decision is the Broadway League who have already sent an email to its members stating that it would not support a bid for a casino in Times Square.
The addition of a casino will overwhelm the already densely congested area and would jeopardize the entire neighborhood whose existence is dependent on the success of Broadway. Broadway is the key driver of tourism and risking its stability would be detrimental to the city.
Conversely and perhaps surprisingly though, the Actors’ Equity Association, which is the labor union which acts as representatives for actors and related professions in the industry, is one entity that has given its full support towards the development of a casino in the area. There is a suggestion that this could well come to a stand-off between opposing parties and perhaps spell major conflict long-term, certainly within the theatre industry in New York. Indeed, this was voiced in a statement from the Actors’ Equity Association, upon whispers of a proposal being submitted.
Part of the pitch from the developer and Caesars, is that it would promise to commit a percentage of its revenue on an annual basis towards more police, security and sanitation to improve the wellbeing of both passers-by and visitors to businesses in the surrounding area.
The proposal from the developer for a Times Square casino would be a game changer that boosts security and safety in the Times Square neighborhood with increased security staff, more sanitation equipment and new cameras, we applaud the developer’s commitment to make the neighborhood safer for arts workers and audience members alike.
This is perhaps one industry many would not have thought, would get so involved in the proposal and it is easy to recognize the arguments on both sides. While the initial development could affect businesses in the short term, due to the aforementioned knock-on effects with increased traffic and the like, there are multiple potential long-term benefits for the area.
As well as boosting footfall and perhaps bringing further business back in the area, many tourists especially, could on a whim visit the box office to purchase theatre tickets off the back of a substantial win at the casino.
Surrounding businesses could also see major benefits, especially during the construction of the development - cafes, bars and restaurants could attract a significant proportion of what is likely to be over a hundred-strong (at least) team on a daily basis, for lunch, dinner and after work drinks. Business owners in the vicinity appear to be behind the bid at least which acts as good news for Caesars Entertainment, with one being seemingly encouraged by the idea and calling for investment to the are.
It is time for us to reinvest again - Times Square is the beating heart of New York, but everyone in Times Square is still hurting from the pandemic. The Caesars Palace proposal is the key to bringing tourists back, making Times Square safer, and is exactly the economic driver we need to not only recover but continue to grow and create more jobs.
Meanwhile, fellow restaurateur, Allen Rosen who owns the chain Junior’s Cheesecake, with locations in both Times Square and Foxwoods Resort Casino in nearby Connecticut also shared a similar viewpoint and seemed unflinching about whether the development would cause any disruptions to his business.
“I can’t see it hurting my business,” he said. “Look at Las Vegas. What do people do? They eat. They go to shows. It’s a lot more than gambling these days.”
In addition, even once the development is completed, this could then continue, particularly if the increased footfall to the area is because of the casino. Nearby bars and restaurants may appeal to visitors once they have left the resort. Hotel guests may also like the opportunity to visit these to experience more variety.
No doubt, this could be a goldmine for developers. At a time when traditional office use is waning due to the global pandemic helping businesses to realize that remote working actually is effective, what could become the largest and most lucrative gambling market in the country could well benefit development companies significantly.
What Other Factors Could Effect This
Unbeknown to many, is that others are trying to muscle in on the potential and with only one major development likely to be approved within the next year at least, this is a pivotal time for Caesars Entertainment to make sure that it does not get trumped.
Indeed, one obstacle in this regard, is related to a competing bid from Wynn Resorts and Related Companies who have appeared to have cemented a casino/realtor partnership for the construction of a development in Hudson Yards, near to Times Square. It perhaps reflects how ambitious this bid from Caesars is, identifying what it believes to be a prime location, regardless of the opposition.
Interestingly a comment in a slide deck from Wynn Resorts reads: “Because it attracts the upper tier of gaming consumers, Wynn is able to dedicate less than 10 percent of its resort space to gaming, yet still generate significant gaming revenue and tax benefits for municipalities.”
Meanwhile, further bids for casinos in the more easily manageable areas of Queens and Brooklyn could well mean that one of the big gambling regulators, New York State Gambling Commission (NYSGC), may not give the go-ahead for a casino anywhere in Manhattan, nevertheless Times Square. MGM Resorts International and Genting are the other two gambling organizations in the running to build their own resorts as well.
The latter, though, already has its own development in Queens - Genting's Resorts World New York City. While they already likely have a relationship with the planning committee and may be able to demonstrate a healthy balance sheet for that casino, the odds of the NYSGC granting them permission for another development is perhaps unlikely.
Despite this, SL Green, Caesars realtor partners on the project, have been particularly vocal about the potential development and remain enthusiastic that this can be approved, with this reflected via a statement.
We believe that Times Square offers the best location for a new resort casino that can attract tourists and benefit local businesses. We're excited to pursue this license with Caesars and our many local partners. Our approach will ensure that under-represented communities benefit both in terms of employment and investment opportunities.
A casino in Times Square is in keeping with existing uses in the area. Times Square is the center of the entertainment universe. Because we are proposing a renovation, once the license is issued, we can open quicker than other facilities, which require entirely new construction, changes in law, and will be disruptive to their local communities.
This, of course has been echoed by Caesars Entertainment, who have focused on the wider benefits that this can bring to Manhattan and the surrounding areas.
Caesars is thrilled to partner with SL Green in connection with a five-star project that will meet and exceed New Yorkers' expectations for world-class entertainment, immediately enhancing New York City's tourism engine and elevating this one-of-a-kind global destination to new heights.
As one of the largest mobile sports books in New York, Caesars is passionate about New York itself. Caesars is also deeply invested in New York-based restaurant groups, chefs, and entertainers from across the Empire State.
Could New York Become the Next Las Vegas?
There has been suggestions that the most famous city in the world could turn into the most famous gambling resort in the world, perhaps even overtaking Las Vegas in terms of stature, importance and for revenue figures.
It is of no coincidence that there has been numerous competing interest in the Big Apple from major gambling companies, who have no doubt recognized and identified the potential that the city could yield.
What may be the likeliest and perhaps smartest solution for gambling companies, is to form a partnership from a bidding committee perspective to help sway the key decision-makers in the city.
However, one major problem here would be deciding which gambling company could place its casino resort where. With central New York congested as it is, a potential idea may materialize in the form of each gambling company donating $x million so that the state can use this to solve the traffic problem as a means of swaying the decision in their favor.
Perhaps the stiffest competition would come if there was any kind of proposal to house a casino in Central Park - which is likely to be shot down before it even had chance to marinate. And then there are ecological and environmental factors to consider.
This though, is not in the list of possible locations, indeed, the two aforementioned ones, another in Queens is a possibility, as well as Staten Island. In theory, it would mean another three potential casinos in New York - with each one likely to replicate its Las Vegas equivalent.
It can also be expected that potential customers will find the same kind of thrill in these venues as if they were in Las Vegas, though this warrants one major question. Will the Nevada gambling hotspot suffer as a result of a newly developed casino epicenter in New York? While it may not draw crowds from the west of the country, it could well mean local residents who may usually go to ‘Vegas,’ stay in the Big Apple, while residents in its neighboring states could also be tempted.
Although it may be too far a stretch to label New York a potential ‘New Las Vegas’ due to the impossibility of building casinos that close to each other, there is certainly chance that there will be some comparisons drawn - if anything revenue figures.
Benefits for NY from the Potential Times Square Casino
Like most things in the gambling industry, while this may be heavily frowned upon in some circles, there are obvious benefits that cannot be ignored. Should the proposal for Caesars Palace Times Square be approved, it would naturally provide billions in tax revenue to the state that can be used to further enhance the city’s infrastructure, particularly its public transport which could become even more necessary post-development.
In addition to this, the jobs that it will likely bring to the state, will boost the economy further. When you consider that this is proposed to be not only a casino, but also a hotel and wellness center, the number could be in excess of 250 people who may benefit from jobs.
And then there are the restaurants that the resort will have, which could see an increase in contracts with local suppliers for the particular food that they offer, with the local fishing industry also likely to benefit because of this, in turn creating even more jobs due to increased demand.
If you think about all of this and then multiply by three, given there are another possible three bids for various sites in the city, the kind of numbers that you would be talking are potentially astronomical.
Each casino, as is usual, will likely be open for 24 hours, which further emphasizes the creation of jobs, meaning people have the possibility to increase their earning potential with longer shifts possibly being on offer.
And even Will Bratton, the New York City Police Commissioner has weighed in arguing that the proposal from Caesars, "...goes beyond routine, in-house security and would invest millions in a new public-private safety initiative. This investment will ensure Times Square is safe for years to come."
The Possible Rejection – Effects on Caesars
Despite being the biggest gambling company in the country with casinos and resorts in over 50 locations across the US, while a snub may not necessarily affect the group financially in terms of losing business, it may give other gambling corporations a chance to catch up.
There is no doubt that New York, being the most densely populated city in the country, has a considerable amount of potential to become the one of the highest spending state when it comes to native gamblers, when you consider the amount of disposable income, while it may even challenge or overtake Las Vegas in time.
The fact that their choice of location could affect its chances is possibly one of the biggest mistakes the company could make when taking into account the potential revenue.
It is still worth remembering though, that the company has an online sports betting license for the state of New York, with its sportsbook performing very well at present, generating millions in tax revenue over the last few months, since its entry into the state in January, after mobile sports betting was approved for the state.
This could work in its favor, while the Governor may even be a major influence. Christmas may not be here just yet, though the company certainly knows what it wants.