Times Square Casino Could Be Hindered by Perceptions of Crime

Posted on: January 3, 2024, 03:58h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2024, 04:10h.

A consortium comprised of Caesars Entertainment, real estate developer SL Green, and rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment agency wants to bring a casino hotel to Times Square in New York City, but if that venue comes to life, it could be hampered by some locals’ perceptions of crime in the area.

Times Square in New York City. A casino there could be hindered by locals’ views on crime. (Image: CNN)

A new survey by the Situation Group indicates that wealthy people in the 55 and up age demographic living in New York suburbs are reluctant to return to Times Square to see Broadway shows due to safety concerns. Half of suburban residents queried told the research firm they haven’t returned to Broadway since 2019, citing safety factors as the reason, while another 41% said they travel to Manhattan less frequently than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s despite data indicating that overall crime in New York City declined 5% last year. However, while murders and shootings dropped, assaults rose 6% and automobile thefts surged 15%.

The Situation Group polled 1,700 Broadway ticket buyers from across the US.

Crime Could Dampen Times Square Casino Effort

Caesars, Jay-Z, and SL Green haven’t publicly commented on the Situation Group findings, but the casino bidders are looking to leverage their proposed location as being potentially accretive to local businesses, including the theater community.

They lack support from Broadway, however. The Broadway League, which is the national trade association for the Broadway industry, said it opposes the plan. In 2022, the group reiterated that view, noting that casinos keep people inside wagering, meaning there will be limited benefit to other local businesses.

That same year, the Shubert Organization, the largest owner of theaters in the area, also said its against a Times Square casino. Conversely, some other Times Square businesses, including restaurants, have rallied behind the idea of a gaming venue and, while crime is still high in the Big Apple, data confirm tourism to the largest US city continues rebounding.

The Caesars, Jay-Z, and SL Green triumvirate are among roughly a dozen entities vying for three downstate casino permits, which could be awarded by New York regulators later this year. It’s rumored that two of those licenses will go to MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World New York in Queens.

Other Issues Facing Times Square Casino

Beyond crime, which could improve over time, a Times Square casino could face other headwinds when it comes to benefiting from, and with, Broadway. Some previous theatergoers are seeing fewer shows because they now work from home, according to the Situation Group.

Additionally, ticket prices are increasing while Broadway is producing fewer hit shows with the ability to stick around for decades, as did productions such as “Chicago,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” and “Wicked.”

Hits come and go, and highly sought-after shows could be integral assuming a Times Square casino comes to life because Caesars wants to leverage its loyalty program to gain favor among local businesses, including theaters.

Caesars Rewards is the industry’s largest gaming loyalty program. SL Green also forecasts that a Times Square casino will drive more than 7 million in additional meals purchased at local restaurants while boosting Broadway ticket sales by more than $65 million annually.