Will gambling on a Saks Fifth Avenue flagship casino pay off?

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Will gambling on a Saks Fifth Avenue flagship casino pay off?
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Hudson’s Bay Company has bid for a gaming license to install a high-end casino on the top three floors of the famed Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan.

The Saks project would start on the ninth floor and cover 200,000 square feet, incorporating a lobby with a separate red-carpet-lined entrance. The space is currently occupied by a restaurant, a section for discounted merchandise and SaksWorks, its recently-launched coworking venture.

A Saks source told BusinessInsider the casino addition is expected to “attract visitors and tourists from around the world seeking that luxurious, Manhattan experience.”

The New York Times, which first reported the bid, said the aesthetics of the casino would align with the flagship that first opened in 1924. The Times wrote, “Renderings of the proposed casino show smartly dressed urbanites seated below chandeliers, reminiscent of stylish ’60s spy films, and a moonlit soiree on the roof of the stone-clad, prewar building.”

Saks is among several major companies vying for three available licenses that became available after state legislators first authorized casinos in the city in April 2022 as regulations over online gambling, sports betting and physical casinos continue to loosen across the country. Competitors include major commercial developers and Vegas casino operators, many of which are planning sizable projects for the outer boroughs.

The winners are expected to be announced later this year. The board will consider job creation potential, economic growth and a commitment to collaborate with minority contractors, according to New York Daily News.

Community groups and local politicians have already voiced opposition to opening a casino in Manhattan and plan to fight any proposal. Saks may ultimately face resistance from its well-known neighbor, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Still, the potential tax benefits have some state and city planners focused on opening a casino in Manhattan, and the Saks proposal may benefit by being quicker to build versus other sprawling projects.

New York State Senator Liz Krueger, who has long opposed a Manhattan casino over the risks of lower-income individuals being “victimized,” told the Times earlier this year that she may be open to a casino atop Saks since it will likely cater to the wealthy.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the prospects for adding a casino atop Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan flagship? Do you see gambling becoming a favorable component to the retail experience should restrictions further ease?

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