Group Opposing Caesars Palace Times Square Casino Fears ‘Harm And Exploitation’ Of Project

Written By Grant Lucas on June 20, 2024
Tourists visit Times Square in New York for a story on a growing group of detractors opposing a proposed Caesars Palace casino.

Plenty of headlines have surrounding the opposition of downstate New York casino proposals in recent weeks. From the Las Vegas Sands proposal on Long Island to Steve Cohen’s Hard Rock resort near Citi Field to a Bally’s project in the Bronx.

All the while, many believe that Caesars Entertainment might have an inside track to one of the three downstate licenses, which could authorize the licensees to offer NY online casinos once lawmakers legalize iGaming.

Now, though, pushback has arisen for the proposed Caesars Palace Times Square.

Several prominent New York City organizations have stepped forward to oppose the casino project, citing a rise in gambling addiction and crime and a decrease in quality of life, among other issues.

“At NOW NYC, my focus is protecting vulnerable people from harm and exploitation,” Sonia Ossorio, president of National Organization for Women NYC (NOW NYC), said in a statement.

“I know a casino on top of Times Square and in close proximity to the Port Authority Bus Terminal would be a magnet for human trafficking and the sex trade. I am proud to join the people who live in this community, know it best, and share that same concern.”

NYC organizations do not agree on ‘unbelievable location’ for Caesars NY casino

Caesars has long targeted Times Square as a location for a casino in New York City. Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars, told PlayNY in 2022 that the site and the brand would create “a big-city casino.”

“We were shown a partnership in an unbelievable location,” Reeg told PlayNY. “If it’s awarded, the only casino license in Manhattan. It’ll be a home run.”

However, not everyone has felt that way.

The No Times Square Casino Coalition announced that TDF – formerly known as the Theatre Development Fund – as well as the NOW NYC and the Council of Chelsea Block Associations have come together to oppose the project.

Ossorio expressed concerns over the casino potentially increasing the likelihood of human trafficking and sex trade, as reported by amNew York. And according to a survey from the No Times Square Casino Coalition, some 71% of registered voters who live in or around the area do not want a casino.

“Having Times Square be both the heart and home of Broadway, as well as a neighborhood and working community is really of primary importance,” Jason Laks, interim president of the Broadway League, said.

“We’re representing the interests of the businesses that are part of our coalition and the interests and concerns of the people who live here, as well as the tourists, who are really going to be the ones to bear the brunt of the impact.”

Locals don’t understand why Times Square even needs a casino

Laks added that increased congestion remains a concern of a Caesars NY casino, making the area “less pleasant” to live and work.

“The sheer volume of cars, buses or construction they may take on and the volume of people, congestion picks up,” Laks said.

Similar to Laks, Sally Greenspan does not understand why Times Square even needs a casino. It is already a heavy tourist attraction, after all, the president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations said.

“New Yorkers and people from across the country and the world come to enjoy Times Square; our Broadway shows, the lights, the music, the restaurants, the streetscape,” Greenspan said.

“What is the rationale to introduce an industry that could cannibalize the very essence of Times Square? Placing a casino in a unique, thriving commercial district like Times Square makes no sense.”

Most NY casino proposals face pushback from opposition

For his part, in early 2023, Reeg recognized Times Squares “already tourist-focused” approach. But, he added: “I can assure you, we are not going to be the one that wins because we built the biggest housing development outside of our casino. We’re going to win this on the merits of the property and how quickly we can get open and how well it fits into the local environment.”

Toward the end of 2023, several prominent property managers and developers backed the Caesars Palace Times Square proposal, which, they assured, would not overshadow what the area already has to offer.

“Unlike other casinos,” Michael Phillips of Jamestown said at the time, “this is a casino that I would say is amenity light and is relying on the amenity base in the surrounding neighborhood to be the attraction and the co-tenancy, which is a great way to think about an urban casino.”

Opposition has not been a region-specific issue, however. Just recently, the New York Post published an op-ed that urged Gov. Kathy Hochul not to support downstate casinos, calling them “major economic busts in the Empire State.”

Photo by Mark Lennihan / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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