Caesars Palace Times Square?

Proposals for one of the three licenses available in the “southern tier” of New York—the New York City area—are drifting in but this week’s proposal for a Caesars Palace in Times Square has garnered lots of attention.

Caesars Palace Times Square?

Caesars Entertainment and New York real estate company SL Green have joined forces to propose a casino in the Times Square area of New York City. While there has been no official announcement of the plan, a feature in the New York Times revealed that the two companies were recruiting local businesses to support the effort.

The proposal is part of New York’s effort to approve three casinos in the southern tier.

The casino would be located in an existing building at 1515 Broadway, the SL Green skyscraper near West 44th Street. While no details have been made public about what would be contained in the building, the efforts to obtain support for the project have been spotty so far.

It has failed to gain the support of the Broadway League, a trade association representing theater owners and producers. In an email to members last week, the league said, “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.”

But increasing crime and a general decline in upkeep in the area—the letter soliciting support for the casino says it will contribute a part of the casino’s revenues to fund safety and sanitation improvements in Times Square—have convinced another powerful group, the Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union representing actors and stage managers.

“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,” Equity says in a statement. “We applaud the developer’s commitment to make the neighborhood safer for arts workers and audience members alike.”

In the letter to businesses, SL Green says the proposal is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to once again solidify Times Square as the world’s greatest entertainment area.”

The Times Square bid comes a few weeks after Wynn Resorts and the Related Cos. revealed plans for a casino at Related’s Hudson Yards, the $23 billion mixed use project on midtown Manhattan’s west site.

In a pitch deck obtained by the New York Times, Related and Wynn bragged, “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.”

In addition to those two bids, it has been reported that New York Mets’ owner Steve Cohen is preparing a proposal that would place a casino in the parking lot of CitiField, the Mets’ stadium. While Las Vegas Sands has shown some interest in that plan, Cohen has yet to choose a gaming partner, sources tell GGB.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Kathy Hochul is coming under criticism for allegedly “rigging” the licensing decision process for downstate casinos in favor of two existing racinos that have contributed heavily to the governor’s campaign.

According to a report in the New York Post, Hochul inserted last-minute language into the budget bill that favored Genting NY-Resorts World at Aqueduct and MGM-Empire City Yonkers.

The amendment, inserted by the Democratic governor and approved by the Democratic-run legislature, stipulates that Resorts World and Empire City will be credited as having existing infrastructure, part of the criteria for awarding the three licenses, which would add table games to those properties, along with the requisite investment.

The language says the state casino siting board “may consider private capital investment made previous” to the law in checking off the boxes for the award of a license.

According to the Post report, Genting/Resorts World lobbyists have donated more than $50,000 to Hochul’s campaign committee and Aqueduct itself has donated $2 million to various New York politicians over the past decade.

“It’s highly problematic; It does feel like the fix is in,” said Jason McGuire, president of the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, which has opposed gambling expansion in New York, in an interview with the Post. “This is not new economic development. It’s a retroactive investment. It’s unfair to other bidders.”

An Albany whistleblower who spotted the casino item in the budget told the Post it seems Hochul “was far more concerned about inserting language to rig the bidding process in favor of casino operators who fill campaign coffers, rather than focus on Covid recovery or ridding our streets of criminals.”

A Hochul spokesman defended the process and denied favoritism in the process.

“The FY23 enacted budget sets out a fair, competitive and transparent statewide process wherein siting decisions are made by the independent Gaming Facility Location Board,” said Hochul spokesman Avi Small, according to the Post.

“As part of the statewide site selection process for casinos, legislative language was included to allow the Board to consider prior capital investment in determining the minimum capital investment amount, just as was included in the 2014 and 2015 casino siting process,” Small added.

The recently formed Gaming Facility Location Board website says that the selection process will not take place until sometime in 2023 at the earliest.