Saks Seeks To Add Casino To Iconic Fifth Avenue Property

Written By Derek Helling on January 13, 2023
department store saks casino fifth avenue

One of the most iconic venues in New York City could become part of the state’s gambling industry. That is if a bid for a Saks casino proves successful.

Saks confirmed that it would seek a license to operate one of three downstate New York casinos, further expanding the field of competitors for those coveted licenses. The public details of the bid are currently scant aside from the venue’s aesthetics.

Saks casino could be in the cards for Manhattan

According to Lisa Fickenscher of The New York Post, Saks wants to put a casino on the top three floors of its flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York City between E 49th and E 50th streets. Fickenscher’s reporting includes renderings of the space.

Fickenscher reports that HBC (the parent company of Saks) CEO Richard Baker characterized the casino as bearing a high-end aesthetic. For example, servers will don black tie apparel and offer players champagne-filled flutes (the glassware, not the instrument).

The casino would also incorporate lavish furnishings at its bars and serve cocktails. Although Fickenscher does not mention it explicitly, the property might impose a dress code. The intention is to style the property to create an almost James Bond, “Casino Royale” atmosphere.

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

While the renderings of the property are no longer for Baker’s eyes only, it’s currently unclear whether this proposition will merely die another day.

Does Saks have a shot at a New York casino license?

As much as Saks knows about style, they are similarly inexperienced in the gambling business. According to Fickenscher, Baker would not say whether Saks plans to partner with any current casino operators on its bid.

That might be a foregone conclusion nonetheless. Competing bids are coming from other companies that have decades of experience in operating casinos like the Choctaw Nation and Caesars.

That experience could count for a lot more than having an iconic location and stylish design when it comes time for the New York Gaming Facility Location Board to make decisions on licenses.

Additionally, securing one of the three licenses is sure to be quite costly. At a minimum, the licensing fee will be half a billion dollars. That doesn’t include the cost of completing necessary studies and securing community support necessary to give Saks’ bid a chance, either.

Saks could be on the line for costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars and end up with nothing to show for it. At some point this year, the Facility Location Board will decide whether the bid will live or whether they will let it die.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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