When Gov. Kathy Hochul signed off on the authorization for three downstate New York casino licenses, eyes lit up.
Commercial gaming would make its way to New York City, the center of the entertainment world. And the intention of many was to find a way to set up NY casino gaming near the absolute hub of NYC: Times Square.
But how accepting would Times Square be of a New York casino? While opposition has emerged, one new group has come forward in support: the Coalition for a Better Times Square.
The group — composed of theater workers, musicians, small business owners, hotel operators and construction unions, among others — was created to “revitalize Times Square” and support the licensing of a casino proposal that holds the same goal.
“Times Square is the Crossroads of the World,” said Jeff Bank of Alicart Restaurant Group, a member of the coalition. “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.”
While the Coalition for a Better Times Square favors a New York casino in the area, one specifically garners the group’s support. That of real estate developer SL Green and partners Caesars Entertainment and Roc Nation to open Caesars Palace Times Square.
The group estimates that the new project would draw over seven million new visits each year, more than 600,000 overnight stays at local hotels, and more than $130 million in retail and Broadway ticket sales.
Some coalition members who have voiced their support for the project include David Levy, communications director for Actors’ Equity Association.
“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.”
Added Mike Prohaska, business manager of the Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York and Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79:
“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.”
Chaz Rynkiewicz, vice president of Laborers’ Local 79, noted that the casino plan “won’t take away land that should go to housing,” allowing members to still have access to affordable housing.
For its part, the team of SL Green, Caesars and Roc Nation obviously thanked the support of the Coalition for a Better Times Square.
“We’re excited to have the support of representatives of all the segments of the Times Square community,” the group said in a joint statement. “We’re proposing a New York project, not a Vegas project, and because of that, it’s going to benefit all of Times Square.”
The casino will also incorporate the Caesars Rewards program. Here, members can redeem credits at Broadway shows, local hotels and restaurants and stores.
According to estimates, this will help generate $967 million in annual area spending. That will boost local businesses and help fund neighborhood initiatives and improvements. That includes added security, sanitation and traffic investments.
“Times Square has been the heartbeat of American Entertainment for over a century,” Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars, said in a press release. “Through our shared vision, we will build a world-class destination specifically designed to complement and elevate today’s Times Square experience, ensuring it remains a magnet for visitors and a hub of creativity for years to come.”
Naturally, not everyone supports a New York casino in Times Square. That includes the Shubert Organization, Broadway’s largest theater owner, and the Broadway League, a group of theater owners, operators, producers and general managers.
The latter group called a Times Square casino “detrimental” to the city.
On a recent podcast, Shubert real estate VP Julio Peterson expressed support for a casino in New York City. Just not Times Square, as it would become a disruption for theatergoers and a net-negative for the area.
“I think we have to protect (Times Square) and not get lost in sort of the immediate gratification . . . and not think of long-term solutions and sustainability for Broadway.”