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Caesars thrilled as Jay-Z joins Times Square casino bid

Hip-hop’s first billionaire has joined Caesars Entertainment’s bid to run a casino in Times Square.

Jay-Z has been added to the Caesars Palace Times Square plans, which would occupy space in the famed Manhattan tourist destination. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has announced it plans to manage the resort’s entertainment program.

Jay-Z’s involvement with SL Green Realty and Caesars Entertainment was formally announced Monday.

Caesars Entertainment is making an effort to land one of the few casino licenses to be available in New York City. SL Green announced in October plans to turn some of its office building at 1515 Broadway, in the heart of the Broadway theater district, into a casino.

Jay-Z, who founded Roc Nation in 2008, said in a statement, “New York is the epicenter of culture. We have the opportunity to create a destination at the heart of the true crossroads of the word. My partnership with SL Green and Caesars has all the promise and commitment to economic opportunity, growth and enrichment for the community and everyone that visits the Empire State.”

Jay-Z’s company manages several recording stars, with Rihanna leading the list. He expanded to the powerful, global athletic management company Roc Nation Sports in 2013. And, of course, Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce, are one of the entertainment industry’s most prominent power couples.

Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said of the new partnership, “We are thrilled to have Roc Nation and Jay-Z join our partnership to bring Caesars Palace to Times Square. They are one of the most pioneering entertainment groups in the world, with New York embedded in their DNA.”

Reeg continued, “Times Square has been the heartbeat of American Entertainment for over a century. Through our shared vision, we will build a world-class destination specifically designed to complement and elevate today’s Times Square experience, ensuring it remains a magnet for visitors and a hub of creativity for years to come.”

New York City is a tantalizing and unrealized market for casinos, with a metropolitan area with about 23 million residents. The state has authorized three casino licenses for New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. According to The New York Times, state gambling regulators have said no determinations will be made “until sometime later in 2023 at the earliest.”

SL Green is New York’s largest owner of office properties. Company Chairman and CEO Marc Hollisay said in a statement, “Together, we will bring the nearly 130 million annual pedestrians a stronger and more exciting Times Square to visit, reunifying the bow tie around a new set of innovative programming that will appeal to New Yorkers and tourists.”

Holliday has described Caesars Palace Times Square as a “boutique hotel,” with a 250,000-square-foot casino floor. The project would take up eight floors in the 54-story Paramount Global headquarters building. The resort would include restaurants, entertainment venues and an 800-room hotel.

Even with the impressive development team, some Broadway theater operators and representative have complained about placing a casino in their neighborhood. Caesars anticipates the resort will draw 7 million new visits to Times Square every year.

According to the New York Post, Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, said the plans are “detrimental” to the New York City and to Times Square. League President Charlotte St. Martin called the casino “an unprecedented and dangerous experiment” in a letter to members last month. Much of the concern is the casino pedestrian traffic would add congestion to already crowded area.

But such Broadway entities as Actors Equity and the owners of such famed restaurants as Carmine’s, Virgil’s and Junior’s Cheesecake are in support.

Caesars Palace Times Square will itself serve as a path to Broadway-style amenities. The ground floor will include an entrance to the Minskoff Theatre, which presents “The Lion King.” As Holliday told the N.Y. Post, no gaming will be offered on the street entrance, noting, “We are putting theater at ground level.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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