Redevelopment plan

New York casino race: Caesars partners with developer SL Green on bid for Times Square project

Reading time 3:24 min

The fierce battle to win a New York City casino license is heating up in Manhattan: real estate heavyweight SL Green and casino-entertainment giant Caesars Entertainment have announced plans for “a premiere entertainment and gaming destination” in the heart of Times Square. The companies are partnering with a project to redevelop 1515 Broadway.

According to the parties, Caesars Palace Times Square would not only provide “billions” in tax revenue to New York City and State, but also accelerate New York’s economic recovery through strategic partnerships with area businesses in what is one of the most visited destinations in the world. Members of Caesars’ loyalty program, Caesars Rewards, would be able to use credits at Broadway shows, local hotels, restaurants and more, “driving more tourists to area businesses.”

In addition to this plan to boost area businesses, SL Green and Caesars are committing to “significant” security and traffic improvements as part of their proposal, which they claim would boost Mayor Adams' efforts in Times Square. “These efforts will make visitors feel safer, improve mass transit, encourage pedestrian travel, and mitigate vehicle congestion in the area, pursuant to a proposed traffic plan to be included as part of the project,” a press statement reads.

According to plans released thus far, Caesars Palace Times Square will be designed to include a Broadway Theater for The Lion King. The development would bring Caesars’ experience in entertainment, food & beverage, and gaming to New York “to deliver a best-in-class experience that will be authentic and complementary” to the Times Square entertainment district. 

"We believe that Times Square offers the best location for a new resort casino that can attract tourists and benefit local businesses,” said Marc Holliday, CEO of SL Green. “Our approach will ensure that under-represented communities benefit both in terms of employment and investment opportunities.”

According to Holliday, a casino in Times Square “is in keeping with existing uses” in the area, which he called “the center of the entertainment universe.” Because the parties are proposing a renovation, if granted a license, the firms would be able “to open quicker” than other facilities that require entirely new construction and changes in law.

"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," added Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars. "Caesars is also deeply invested in New York-based restaurant groups, chefs, and entertainers from across the Empire State."

Caesars' Tom Reeg

The project has been proposed with the backing of a number of stakeholders, including Jeffrey Bank, President and CEO of the Alicart Restaurant Group; Michael Prohaska, Business Manager of Laborers' Local 79; Geoff Ballotti, President and CEO Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.

"We know how to bring crime rates down in Times Square because we've done it before. With better security infrastructure and 24/7 monitoring, we can anticipate and prevent crime – we just need the financial and political willpower to do so," said Bratton. "SL Green and Caesars' proposal for Times Square goes beyond routine, in-house security and would invest millions in a new public-private safety initiative."

According to a statement, Caesars Palace Times Square would be 100% privately funded, with the casino operator to license its brand and manage the operations under a long-term management contract. The companies are aiming to secure one of three new casino licenses in the New York City area approved by state legislators earlier this year.

The project has enormous implications for Times Square, the symbolic and economic heart of the American theater industry, and a key part of the city’s office-driven economy, notes The New York Times. Although food traffic in Times Square was almost back at 2019 levels during recent weekends, theatergoers and office workers have been slower to re-embrace a neighborhood where violent crime has risen, thus why Caesars’ proposal focuses on this issue.

Hudson Yards, home to a rival bid

A casino in Times Square, however, faces a number of obstacles, including competing bids. Among them is a project for a casino in nearby Hudson Yards from real estate and gambling giants Related Companies and Wynn Resorts, which would be located on the undeveloped western portion of the area, also fulfilling prior housing and public space commitments.

Additionally, two existing racinos are considered front-runners for two of the three licenses: Genting Group’s Resorts World New York City in Queens and MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers, N.Y., which would be allowed to expand their offerings into full-casino gaming if granted licenses. 

Assuming Resorts World and Empire City Casino obtain two of the licenses, the competition for the third one is likely to feature many of the country’s major casino companies. In addition to Caesars and Wynn, local media reports point out that Hard Rock, Las Vegas Sands and Bally’s have all been exploring the opportunity, although no projects have been announced thus far.

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