Broadway Theater Owners Attempt To Block Times Square Casino Plans
Caesar’s Entertainment, backed by superstar billionaire hip-hop mogul Jay Z’s Roc Nation and Manhattan’s biggest realtors, SL Green, wants to build a casino complex in New York City’s iconic Times Square.
However, a group of Broadway theater owners that comprise the Broadway League have started a “No Times Square Casino” coalition to organize community opposition to the plans, as reported by the New York Times.
The race to obtain the three pending licenses for new land-based casinos in downstate New York is heating up right now, and all applications will consider public feedback. As well as Caesars’ Times Square plan, casino owners Bally’s, MGM, and Wynn Resorts all have planned sites, as does Malaysian operator Genting. Any license could cost up to $100 million, all told.
Two sites are already licensed to operate limited horse racing and slots in downstate New York. Resorts World Casino in Queens and Empire City in Yonkers are expected to receive preferential treatment for two of the three new licenses – meaning there’s a lot of competition for the third.
Related: Our expert guide to the best online casinos for players from New York
Employment and Opportunities
Caesars first debuted its New York casino plans last October. However, as the licensing date draws closer, public interest in the process is growing.
The proposed development would renovate 54-story 1515 Broadway near 44th and 45th streets in Manhattan.
“We believe that Times Square offers the best location for a new resort casino that can attract tourists and benefit local businesses,” said SL Green CEO Marc Holliday at the time of the initial plan announcement.
“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.”
Caesar’s CEO Tom Reeg seemed to preempt expected criticism from local business owners with his statement. “Guests will flow directly from our five-star boutique hotel, gaming floor, sportsbook and entertainment destination into the existing vibrant entertainment and culinary community in and around Times Square,” he said.
Challenges the Character
However, his arguments did not seem to sway the “No Times Square Casino” members.
“We believe it [the casino] challenges the cultural significance and the unique character that Broadway has delivered for New York for such a long time,” said Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin.
Prominent figures in The Broadway League include Disney Theatrical Group president Thomas Schumacher and board members of the Schubert Organization, the latter who run 17 theaters in the area.
The Broadway League is also joined in the coalition by some big names, making this hardly a grassroots vs. big corporation battle. The Manhattan Plaza Tenant’s Association, representing some 2000 rental tenants, the Times Square Church, and The Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association are all represented.
Local restaurateur Max Klimavicius told Deadline, “No matter how much emphasis promoters try to place on glitz and glamour, a casino in Times Square has the potential to unravel the fabric of the theater district and jeopardize the fate of its restaurants.”
Most significantly for the project, local State Senator Liz Krueger (D-28) was in no mood to mince words on her opinion.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” she told the New York Times. Krueger gets a vote on the decision to pass any potential casino project, as does a board made up of local residents. So, at this stage, it’s not looking particularly good for Caesars or their partners.
Not all local business owners are opposed. Caesars had legendary restaurant chain Nobu on board, as well as the nearby Brooklyn Diner and Carmine’s.
“It’s a big shot in the arm for New York City to have it [a casino] in Midtown at this convenient location, versus Queens or Yonkers or some nonsense,” nearby Bacall Family Steakhouse owner Ken Sturm told reporters.