The Big Apple is about to roll the dice on gambling, and many billionaire investors want to try their luck at winning the big prize.
Elected officials have finally authorized one casino license in the Big Apple (that’s right—just one for a city of 8 million people), causing a massive and sometimes ugly bidding war between various wealthy suitors.
One interested party is nonother than Jay-Z and his entertainment company Roc Nation. The entrepreneur famous for saying, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,” has teamed up with SL Green and Caesars Entertainment to propose building a Caesars Palace in the heart of bustling Times Square.
In an open letter on Roc Nation’s Instagram and Twitter titled “It’s Time, Times Square,” the company made a case for why they should be granted New York City’s gambling golden ticket.
“The winning group must have a track record of turning words into deeds — of putting New York City and its residents first — people of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and socio-economic statuses,” the statement said. “Our proposal lays out an innovative plan that will not only draw additional tourists to our city but will also enhance the lives of everyday New Yorkers.”
Jay-Z’s plan promises to give back to surrounding businesses, benefit mass transit, invest in sanitation and security, and “deliver a much-needed transportation plan,” among other things. “Our bid commits $115 million for diverse theater programs that include daycare for Broadway workers and their families,” the letter said.
An all-out bidding war
New York voters approved of Las Vegas-like casinos in their state in 2013. But it wasn’t until last year that elected officials in Albany authorized casino licenses for downstate New York, including New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County.
The prospect of opening a fully operational casino in the largest city in America has billionaires salivating to become the King of New York casinos. Aside from Jay-Z, other bidders include New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, Gristedes supermarket scion John Catsimatidis, and Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross.
“Every billionaire wants a casino. The epitome of success in the US is to own your own casino,” a source told The New York Post.
However, the billionaires have different ideas about where they want to build their casinos. Cohen has teamed up with Hard Rock and wants to open a casino around Citi Field in Queens, where the Mets play. Catsimatidis is eyeing Coney Island, famous for its boardwalk, amusement park, and hot dog eating contest. Ross, who has partnered with Wynn, wants to put the casino in the newly developed Hudson Yards.
Accusations of a ‘misinformation’ campaign
The Roc Nation letter, which also appeared in ads in the New York Post, New York Daily News, and Amsterdam News, accused some “conflicted parties” of spreading “misinformation,” claiming they had written the letter to set the record straight.
While Roc Nation did not name names, some believe they may be referring to a coalition of Broadway theater owners and producers, the midtown Manhattan community, and tenant organizations calling themselves No Times Square Casino.
According to an article in Deadline, the coalition opposes building a Caesars Palace in Times Square, also home to most Broadway theaters, citing traffic congestion, economic disruption, and making the area “less welcoming to families.”