When voters approved the legalization of Las Vegas-style casino gambling for New York state in 2013, industry heavyweights had their eye on the Big Apple and its population with the NYC Metro area approaching 20 million people but lacking any true casinos. When Gov. Kathy Hochul more recently gave a nod to three new casino resorts in downstate New York; the public started to hear more about it too.
It’s widely believed that two of the licenses will go to the two existing video lottery terminal and electronic table game venues – Resorts World New York City, adjacent to Aqueduct Racetrack near JFK Airport, and the Empire City Casino in Yonkers. The third license is the one that has created a clash of titans with mega-casino operators and billionaires wanting to get in on the action.
Proposals have bubbled up that range from a resort at Hudson Yards to a new attraction at Coney Island to the inevitable desire to inhabit the vibrant center of the American entertainment universe at Times Square. All told, there are at least six viable proposals making the rounds and stimulating conversation as well as big dollar money interest.
Advocacy Group Forms
One of those ideas has gained the support of a new advocacy group; it’s called the Coalition for a Better Times Square. While stalwart opposition remains – notably coming from Broadway’s largest theater owner, the Shubert Organization and league of operators, producers, general managers, and owners – others see the value in such an addition.
It’s highly likely that big money is behind most “grassroots” groups in America, especially those involved in commercial advocacy that favors one entity over others. On its face and at its bones, the Coalition for a Better Times Square is composed of people and organizations that would benefit from any major economic engine being located there.
Construction unions, theater workers, hotel operators, small businesses, musicians and others have banded together to promote their location for a NYC casino to revitalize Times Square.
But the group doesn’t want just any casino resort on Times Square, it favors Caesars Palace Times Square. Caesars Palace would be developed by a coalition including real estate developer SL Green, Caesars Entertainment, and the newest member – Roc Nation headed up by world-famous rapper Jay-Z.
Alicart Restaurant Group is a member of the coalition. Its CEO and President, Jeffrey Bank said: “Times Square is the Crossroads of the World. Unfortunately, many tourists have yet to return and businesses still haven’t fully recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, which means lunchtime business is gone.
“We need a new entertainment destination, like the facility proposed by SL Green and Caesars Entertainment, so we can bring our economy back and invest in needed safety, sanitation, and traffic flow.”
New Footfall of 7m New Visitors Yearly
Group organizers predict new footfall of more than 7 million new visitors to Times Square each year if the entertainment center is built there. Many of those people will eat, sleep, and shop too so they estimate over $130 million annually in Broadway ticket sales and retail receipts as well as more than half a million overnight stays.
Union leaders are all for progress and keeping their members working so it’s no surprise that the Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York and Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79 support the proposal.
Business manager Mike Prohaska said: “A new gaming facility in Times Square would provide hundreds of well-paid, union jobs during both construction and operation. Caesars and SL Green both have strong pro-labor histories, and they have committed to minority hiring and apprenticeship programs that will open a pathway to the middle class for even more New Yorkers.”
Laborers’ Local 79 vice president Chaz Rynkiewicz added: Our members need housing we can afford in New York City, and this is the only plan that puts a casino in a part of the city where it belongs and won’t take away land that should go to housing.”
It’s no surprise that some owners and workers might have different opinions and positions on the idea and nowhere is that more obvious than in the contrasting agendas of the Broadway League (owners, managers, operators, etc.) and the Actors’ Equity Association.
The association’s communications director, David Levy said: “Equity members depend on a strong, thriving theater industry in Manhattan. Bringing almost half a million new theatergoers into our theaters, a commitment to union jobs, and unprecedented investments in safety and traffic flow will be beneficial for Broadway and its workers.”
Source: Business Owners, Operators, Unions Team Up To Support NY Casino In Times Square, PlayNY, December 20, 2022