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Applications open for NYC casino bids; Times Square location could be in the cards

On Jan. 3, the New York Gaming Facility Board unanimously voted to issue a request for applications for up to three new casinos in New York State.

Times Square

On Jan. 3, the New York Gaming Facility Board unanimously voted to issue a request for applications for up to three new casinos in New York State.

Applications will be for the license to build a full-fledged casino; the asking price for each license is $500 million and the application fee is $1 million. These proposals will be evaluated in two stages; the calendar of deadlines has not been announced. The next significant date in the process is Feb 3., which is the deadline for applicants’ submission of a first set of questions to the Board, if desired.

The request for proposals is the result of a decades-long process. In 2013, officials amended the New York State Constitution to greenlight up to seven commercial casinos. Four resort casinos have since opened in upstate New York. Subsequently, in 2022, officials established a budget, process and criteria for the remaining three potential casinos. With the finalizing of these details, the active application process has commenced.

According to Fortune, Caesar Entertainment has expressed interest in opening a casino in Times Square — though they have not submitted an official bid.

Resorts World has indicated interest in a Yonkers casino; Wynn Resorts is reportedly contemplating a Hudson Yards location. According to Gothamist, Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation and Legends are looking at a potential Coney Island location. New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is considering a location near the Mets’ home stadium Citi Field.

To date, the Broadway League has expressed opposition to the idea of a Times Square location, citing a casino as a risk to the stability of Broadway and a detriment to an already congested neighborhood. In a statement to Broadway News, Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin said, “There are many places downstate that could benefit from a casino, but Times Square isn’t one of them. The proposal would bring deep economic and social disruption — not development — to the theater district and interconnected businesses that make Broadway a unique international destination. The data’s clear: Casinos don’t bring benefits to established business districts such as Times Square.”

Sardi’s owner Max Klimavicius published an op-ed in the New York Daily News opposing a Times Square casino on the grounds that it would “jeopardize the character of the theater district and the fate of its restaurants.” He continued, “Casinos don’t drive customers to neighboring businesses the way theaters do. By design, casinos are self-contained, with their own restaurants and shops to keep gamblers in the casino.”

On the other hand, Actors’ Equity Association (the actors’ union) and Local 802 (the musicians’ union), as well as Alicart Restaurant Group (which operates Carmine’s and other theater-district eateries), Fireman Hospitality Group (which runs Bond 45 and other area dining spots) and Wyndham Hotels support the idea of a casino in the heart of midtown. They are part of the recently established Coalition for a Better Times Square.

“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,” said Equity communications director David Levy.

According to the state’s Gaming Facility Board, applications will be evaluated on creation of living-wage jobs and prospective revenue. Prior to the Board’s assessment of bids, applications must obtain approval by city and state zoning as well as a two-thirds majority of a separate Community Advisory Committee. The Board may require applicants to present contents of their proposal to the public and may require a public hearing to receive feedback and questions from members of the community.