Gambling giant Caesars bid for a casino in Times Square is sparking strong opposition from Broadway.
As news of the idea for a Caesars Palace Times Square was announced, the Broadway League jumped into the debate, saying they don’t see a gambling mecca as a good fit alongside the dramas and musicals that draw tourists to New York.
“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,” the Broadway League said in a statement.
“Broadway is the key driver of tourism and risking its stability would be detrimental to the city.”
The proposed casino is a joint effort by Caesars and SL Green Realty. It would be located at SL Green’s skyscraper at 1515 Broadway by renovating existing space. The Minskoff Theater, where the Lion King is currently playing, is located in the building and the developers say they plan to retain a theater there.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the district, told The News that his constituents have not asked for a casino in Times Square.
“I have to say I’m extremely skeptical about a casino in Times Square,” Hoylman told The News. “This can’t be just about how much money the operator is going to make. … Casinos bring a lot of baggage with them. They prey on the most vulnerable, they have an impact on congestion and traffic, and those are concerns that have to be addressed. “
The Caesars proposal is one of many vying for one of three downstate casino licenses approved by the state legislature earlier this year.
NY State Sen. Joseph Addabo, a Queens Democrat who chairs the committee on racing, gaming and wagering, has said two of those licenses will likely go to existing gambling operators. Resorts World Casino in Queens and the Empire City Casino in Westchester are currently only allowed to offer slot machines and racing betting. With full casino licenses, they could also run table games like poker and blackjack.
That has kindled intense competition for the third license, with the prospect of a Times Square Caesars Places the latest entry.
SL Green CEO Marc Holliday, said in a news release that the casino bid could be fast-tracked.
“We believe that Times Square offers the best location for a new resort casino that can attract tourists and benefit local businesses,” he said. “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.”
That proposal will vie with a rival bid from Related Companies and Wynn Resorts, who last month proposed a casino at Hudson Yards, with their sights on a location next to the Javits Center.
“Wynn Resorts has a long history of utilizing a compact, upscale casino floor to support the creation of spectacular resort experiences that appeal to an array of guests – travelers and locals alike,” said Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts, in a statement last month.
The Gaming Facility Location Board appointed by the state’s Gaming Commission will issue a formal request for applications by January 6, 2023, a spokesperson for the Commission told The News.
The three licenses may technically be issued to an applicant located in any part of New York state except where tribal gaming exclusivity exists, despite this process being commonly referred to as the “downstate casino process,” according to the spokesperson.
Legislators have said that the bidding for each casino license will start at $ 500 million.
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The Caesars bid is endorsed by Local 79, which expects the casino could bring thousands of union jobs to Midtown.
But not by Gerry Gladston, a founder and owner of Midtown Comics, the city’s largest comic book store located a few blocks south of the proposed Times Square casino.
“I personally am not at all in favor of it,” Gladston told The News. “It might make the area more seedy.”
Gladston says the store has a close relationship with Broadway, with actors stopping by the store for impromptu performances.
“I don’t think a casino helps any of that.”
The Times Square Alliance, the group overseeing the New Year’s Eve ball drop, is staying neutral.
“The Times Square Alliance represents all businesses within our district and understands that they have differing viewpoints and opinions on this issue. Therefore, to effectively represent all of our constituents, we will not be taking a position on a casino in Times Square at this time, ”a spokesperson told The News.