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Times Square Casino Plans Face Stiff Opposition

Penny April 28, 2023

When it was announced that New York state officials would be open to granting casino licenses, excitement was off the charts. A number of big names entered the ring to present plans for their venues. New York Mets fans were dazzled with a concept that included a new home for the side sitting in the same complex as a mega casino and hotel venue. But perhaps one of the most exciting proposals was the one that included the iconic Times Square.

More than just a developer picking the area with some of the heaviest footfall in the world, this was a plan backed by rap sensation Jay-Z. However, if local businesses have their way, the concept will never get off the ground and no shovel will enter dirt on the project.

The Jay-Z-backed proposal would have seen an in-use office building at 1515 Broadway transformed into a 54-floor five-star hotel and casino operated by Caesars. The casino itself would likely sit at around 250,000 square feet and occupy eight of the building’s floors, as reported by real estate news outlet The Real Deal. This would represent one of the area’s largest new developments in recent years. Opposition was always to be expected. However, not many could have foreseen the sheer scale of pushback such plans would garner. Concerns have been raised on the effects of all the proposals. However, none seem to have drummed up the same level of vocal denunciation. Could this loud opposition completely derail the ambitious plans for one of New York’s biggest tourist destinations?

Cross-Community Support in Plans Opposition

The rejection of these plans is unique in that they come not from one singular pressure group or concerned neighborhood. Instead, the objection to the proposals comes from what the New York Times describes as a coalition formed by the Broadway League. It brings together opponents of differing backgrounds and with different personal stakes, but with one ultimate goal of blocking the moves to build the new entertainment venue in the area. In the NYT report, the aptly-named No Times Square Casino Community Coalition is described as comprising a handful of bar and restaurant owners, as well as a local church, bus, youth travel organizations, and five resident associations. It is unusual to see such a unanimous rejection of new developments, especially with such a diverse and wide-reaching membership. And this is what could prove to be the biggest sticking point for the plans.

Local restaurant owners are primarily concerned that the development would injure the Theatre District’s unique character. A spokesperson for the group said that they believe that plans challenge “the cultural significance and the unique character that Broadway has delivered”. What’s more, this group is not exactly a grassroots, mom-and-pop machine. Instead, it has backing from some of the deepest pockets and influential names in the Broadway scene. It is funded and staffed largely by several employees of theater groups; individuals that own scores of venues surrounding the site of the proposed casino, as well as the Disney Theatrical Group’s head honcho. It’s this influence and funding that the coalition has behind it that seems to be of the most concern to those behind the casino plans.

Will We Actually See a Times Square Casino?

That’s a hard question to answer. Obviously, as mentioned, all proposals are expected to receive some backlash from concerned citizens and anti-gambling activists. The development of the Mets’ new home alongside a casino has faced even stronger pushback in many ways. Its plans to build on what is currently a parking lot received the strongest objection – that of the law. According to NBC New York, the plans ran into trouble when it was revealed that there are restrictions in place to stop public land from being developed for private use, as would be the case with this development.

Such restrictions had previously blocked the owners from building a mall at the same spot. That hasn’t stopped the powers that be from attempting to push ahead with the process. The New York Post reported that politicians had introduced a bill to allow for the development. Time will tell whether that will prove fruitful.

As is always the case, any opposition will have its time to have its voice heard. Plans put forward by developers vying for a casino license must go through several vetting processes. This process establishes the validity of any objections. Ultimately, the decision comes down to a six-person committee that will evaluate this. It’s likely that this will become a war of attrition as both sides battle to achieve their goals. That could be the two-thirds majority approval required to push forwards or blocking exactly that and killing the casino dead. It really could go either way.

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