Saks unveils stylish plan for casino at Fifth Avenue store

New York Post
Saks unveils stylish plan for casino at Fifth Avenue store
Wild Casino

Saks Fifth Avenue finally tipped its hand, confirming plans to bid for a casino license on the top floors of its flagship store on Fifth Avenue.

The luxury department store between East 49th and East 50th streets, next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, released exclusive images to The Post for a casino that will bring high rollers to the home of high fashion.

The renderings show stylishly dressed guests, seated at roulette tables, posh bars and upholstered chairs, clinking cocktails. They enter the building via a separate entrance on a red carpet that extends out onto the sidewalk and opens into a vast lobby area with multiple chandeliers and plush decorative rugs. 

The casino would take up three floors, starting on the ninth, where servers will be dressed in black tie and hand out champagne flutes to gamblers, Richard Baker, executive chairman and chief executive of HBC, the Toronto-based company that owns Saks told The Post.

“The casino at Saks will attract an affluent global tourist and not prey on people who shouldn’t be in casinos,” Baker said. 

Ever since last year when the state announced it would issue three new licenses for Las Vegas-style casinos in the metro region, Baker has been drafting the plan, he said.  

“We have been quietly working with community groups including Broadway theaters, retailers and [elected officials] and we have a lot of support for a different type of casino in New York City,” Baker said.

Part of his pitch is that Fifth Avenue desperately needs an attraction that will increase foot traffic on the iconic shopping avenue, especially at night when the stores roll up their doors.

“All of us who live in New York City have seen an erosion of activity on Fifth Avenue, which is one of the most valuable attractions in the US and is vitally important for NYC,” Baker said.

A high-end casino will bring lights, security and activity to the famous corridor, Baker said.

The century-old store has lots of competition for the prized casino license. At least five billionaires are gunning for the license, for which applications were recently made available, according to people familiar with the process.

Mets owner Steve Cohen, real-estate scion Stefan Soloviev, Gristedes CEO John Catsimatidis and Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross have expressed interest in a license.  Music mogul Jay-Z also has partnered with real estate developer SL Green and Caesars to bring a casino to Times Square, which has been opposed by the powerful Broadway League. 

A coterie of influential groups, including the powerful hotel union, supports the plan, according to Baker. He said Broadway theater owners wary of a casino that would compete for tourist dollars also backed his plan.

Baker declined to comment on whether it would partner with any established casino operators.

He estimates that the Saks casino could be developed within a year as opposed to competitors who are proposing new developments that could take many years to complete.

The stylish Saks casino would be similar to the one featured in the James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” according to Baker.

“In Monte Carlo they have fancy casinos so why not in Manhattan,” Baker said. “Why should Manhattan have another slobby casino. … We need spectacular.”

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