Oct 20, 2022 - Economy

Caesars proposes a casino in Times Square

Illustration of the Manhattan skyline with a giant pile of poker chips

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Gambling companies and developers are placing big bets on New York City. In the latest proposal, Caesars Entertainment on Thursday announced it's pursuing a casino hotel in the heart of Times Square.

Why it matters: With a regional population of about 20 million people and tens of millions of annual visitors, New York City is the most lucrative, largely untapped area in the country for the casino industry.

State of play: Casino companies are vying for up to three state licenses expected to be distributed to new properties in the New York area.

  • Caesars said Thursday it's partnering with real estate investment trust SL Green Realty to renovate an existing tower at 1515 Broadway that houses Disney's "The Lion King" musical at the street level. It would be called Caesars Palace Times Square.
  • In September, casino giant Wynn Resorts and real estate firm Related companies announced they're pursuing a casino in Hudson Yards on the west side of Manhattan about a mile away from Times Square.

Reality check: Local opposition is already mounting.

  • "Critics worry that" a Times Square casino "would alter the character of a neighborhood that can ill afford to backslide toward its seedier past, and further overwhelm an already crowded area," the New York Times reported.
  • Among the opponents is the Broadway League, which represents Broadway Theaters, which warns the casino would risk the stability of the surrounding theater district.

The other side: "We see this as beneficial for the city, state, and Caesar’s," Zachary Warring, equity analyst at CFRA Research, tells Axios in an email.

  • "We expect this to take some time with many hurdles and red tape, but do expect this to bring significant tax revenue to the city and state and attract more tourism if they are able to get this done."

Keep in mind: Times Square is still showing signs of pandemic wear, having suffered a massive decline in foot traffic and revenue, with Broadway ticket sales still trailing pre-pandemic levels.

  • With applicants pledging "significant security and traffic improvements" as part of their investment, the announcement drew support from several entities, including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Laborers' Local 79 and the Actors’ Equity Association, which represents Broadway actors and managers.

What's next: The New York State Gaming Commission has established a three-person panel called the New York Gaming Facility Location Board that will review, evaluate and recommend the license awardees in 2023 at the earliest.

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