Bright Lights, Day or Night: Times Square or Its New York Retail Casino Suitor, Caesars?

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Times Square is loud, crowded, and always full of bright lights, day or night. Land-based casinos can be, too. Perhaps that’s why Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment is louder about its proposal for a Times Square casino than many in the crowded line of New York retail casino hopefuls vying for three new downstate licenses.

Even though the board considering which operators will receive the licenses won’t open up the application process until Jan. 6, Caesars announced its intentions today.

Today’s press release from Caesars and New York-headquartered office landlord SL Green Realty Corporation already calls the proposed casino Caesars Palace Times Square.

Additionally, the announcement appears to show tourists are the target audience for the retail casino they’d like to open at 1515 Broadway.

Caesars CEO Thomas R. Reeg says:

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.

Caesars and SL Green declined to comment on Bonus‘s many questions about the proposal.

How New York Retail Casino Licenses Impact Online Casino

That hat tip to Caesars Sportsbook, which is part of the sports betting marketplace that launched on Jan. 8, is interesting. New York online casino gambling isn’t yet legal, but it will be discussed this year by the New York State Legislature.

Winners of the three full licenses also will likely be allowed to partner with two online casino sites each. That’s the language in the bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens.

Addabbo tells Bonus he won’t be surprised if licenses cost operators $1 billion each. Although the New York Gaming Facility Location Board (NYGFLB) will be the entity setting that price, and the board’s guidelines already say licenses will cost at least $500 million apiece.

Meanwhile, based on Reeg’s comment about sports betting, Caesars will probably try to be at the front of the line for an online casino license.

At the moment, Caesars doesn’t have a New York retail casino. Caesars does have land-based facilities in nearby Atlantic City and Philadelphia.

Announcements, Assumptions May Irritate Authorities

On Oct. 3, when the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) appointed NYGFLB’s three members, NYSGC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer had something to say about what he’d been reading and hearing about the licenses the board will award.

Not only was Oct. 3 the day the commission selected the board, but the board will need to go through a months-long process before deciding who will receive the three full licenses.

O’Dwyer said:

This is indeed a tabula rasa.

However, Caesars is far from the only retail casino organization speaking as though its ideas were confirmed.

The Queens gambling facility, Resorts World New York, will likely receive one of the full licenses, Bonus heard Kevin Jones say. He spoke on Sept. 22 at the East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum (ECGC) in Atlantic City. Empire City Casino in Yonkers, an MGM Resorts International property, probably will get another, said the chief strategy and legal officer at Resorts World Casino and Genting Americas.

Caesars Wouldn’t Have to Start From Scratch

Like Resorts and Empire City, Caesars would be enhancing an existing property.

Pictured here in 2014, the long-running Disney musical The Lion King still makes its home at 1515 Broadway. The 54-story mixed-use building that’s also known as One Astor Plaza is primarily an office tower, with tenants like Viacom.

The area, which New Yorkers call Midtown, features the Broadway theater district, 14 subway lines, Penn Station, and the Port Authority.

The Caesars announcement emphasizes that this building “in the heart of Times Square” is perfect for a retail casino.

Redeveloping it “will not only provide billions in tax revenue to New York City and State, it will also accelerate New York’s economic recovery through strategic partnerships with area businesses utilizing its industry-leading loyalty program Caesars Rewards.”

‘Caesars Palace Times Square’ a Good Neighbor?

While mentioning the loyalty program may seem like a non-sequitur, Caesars says the program’s 65 million members can use “credits” from gambling at the casino to see Broadway shows, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, shop at retail stores, and so on.

In other words, gamblers will spend money in Times Square.

Plus, “Caesars Palace Times Square” will have its own restaurants and entertainment, like The Lion King.

SL Green CEO Marc Holliday said:

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.

The announcement includes endorsements from:

  • Actors’ Equity;
  • Alicart Restaurant Group, which operates Carmine’s and Virgil’s BBQ;
  • Laborers’ Local 79;
  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts; and
  • former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.

However, full disclosure as a former New Yorker, Caesars’ “pledge to divert from landfills 65% of all waste generated at our properties by 2030” may please residents the most. Because as eye-catching as Times Square is, lines of leaky bins or stacks of black trash bags on the crowded sidewalks are visible in the bright lights, day or night.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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