Saks Fifth Avenue announced it will be joining the race for one of the three downstate casino licenses in New York.
Saks, located on Fifth Ave. in Times Square, is a luxury clothing store that’s been a New York city shopping destination for over a century. Now, Saks sets its focused on dipping its toes into a completely different industry.
Saks’ plan is to house the casino on three floors in its flagship location on Fifth Ave. It’s unclear if the company plans to partner with an established gaming operator.
Richard Baker, executive chairman and chief executive of Hudson’s Bay Company — the organization that owns Saks — told the New York Post that their NY casino bid will have a major leg up on the competition. Baker said construction on a Saks casino could be completed in only one year.
This is in stark contrast to most casino construction projects that take years to build.
Saks NY casino would have a unique atmosphere
Similar to its clothing store, Saks plans for its casino to also have a high-end vibe. For starters, guests would enter the gaming venue on a red carpet through a separate entrance from the store.
In casino renderings sent to the New York Post, guests are dressed lavishly and servers are donning black ties. The chairs are upholstered and guests are sipping drinks from champagne glasses.
Baker said he drew inspiration from the casino in the James Bond movie Casino Royale:
“In Monte Carlo they have fancy casinos so why not in Manhattan? Why should Manhattan have another slobby casino. … We need spectacular.”
Baker believes a Saks casino would draw wealthy guests that can afford to lose money gambling:
“The casino at Saks will attract an affluent global tourist and not prey on people who shouldn’t be in casinos.”
Broadway theater owners have been anti-casino
One hurdle Saks may need to overcome is the large contingent in the Broadway theater community that doesn’t want to see a casino in the neighborhood.
One outspoken group: The Broadway League, a 700-plus member organization consisting of theater owners, operators, producers and general managers.
But Baker told the New York Post that opening a casino in New York’s theater district won’t be a problem.
“We have been quietly working with community groups,” Baker said, “including Broadway theaters, retailers and (elected officials) and we have a lot of support for a different type of casino in New York City.”
In fact, Baker believes a Saks casino could benefit the entire neighborhood. He added that the casino could also draw more late-night foot traffic.
Saks will have plenty of competition
There will be an abundance of competitors gunning for the three downstate casino licenses approved in the April budget. But there’s reason to believe only one license is truly up for grabs.
Resorts World NYC and Empire City Casino each expect to receive a license. Both are established gaming venues searching for the certification to upgrade to full-scale casinos.
Until Saks announces a partnership with an established gaming operator, it’s hard to imagine it as a real competitor for a casino license.