Real Estates

Vornado to join Big Apple’s casino battle royale: source

Vornado Realty Trust is poised to join the city’s big casino sweepstakes by rolling the dice on a casino near Madison Square Garden, The Post has learned.

The city’s second-largest commercial landlord is considering whether to bid on a prized casino license at the site of the soon-to-be-demolished Hotel Pennsylvania, a source close to the situation told The Post.

The shuttered hotel — once home to luminaries from Harry Houdini to Fidel Castro — sits on a site proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, nine blocks around the “new” Penn Station. Vornado has been selected to develop five of the eight office sites, where some buildings will be demolished and tenants evicted. The demolition of the hotel will be completed by the end of the year.

Vornado, who rarely answers questions from the media, broke his silence on a possible casino bid when contacted by The Post.

“We are studying the possibility of applying for a casino license.” [in the Penn Station area], but we don’t have an agreement,” said Vornad’s spokesman. “Our most important criteria for any project is that it meets the economic development goals and produces the transit and public improvements outlined in the state’s General Project Plan.”

Demolition of the Hotel Pennsylvania is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Demolition of the Hotel Pennsylvania is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Bettmann Archive
The shuttered hotel has seen luminaries from Harry Houdini to Fidel Castro enjoy a stay.
The shuttered hotel has seen luminaries from Harry Houdini to Fidel Castro enjoy a stay.
Catherine Nance

Vornad’s statement did not name a partner, but a source confirmed that chairman Steven Roth is in talks with Midwestern gaming mogul Neil Gary Bloom, the head of Walton Street Capital, whose fortune Forbes estimates is $6 billion.

Bloom, 84, owns or is a partner in several premier Chicago commercial properties and casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and Schenectady, New York, according to Forbes. He also owns stakes in the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, and is a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Vornado will have to act quickly if he wants to get in on the action. Preliminary applications to the State Gaming Board are due by February 3. Three casino licenses are expected to be issued in lower locations, but only one of the five boroughs — in addition to an expansion option for the Resorts World “racino” in Queens.

If Vornado decides to go all-in on the casino bid, it would pit Roth against arch-rival SL Green, the city’s largest commercial landlord, and affiliates of Steve Ross, among others.

Midwestern gaming mogul Neil Gary Bluhm.
Midwestern gaming mogul Neil Gary Bluhm.
Amanda Schwab/Starpik/Shutterstock

SL Green has partnered with Caesars Entertainment in Times Square; Affiliated Companies and Wynn Resorts overlook Hudson Yards; The Solovyov Group wants a location on First Avenue near the UN; The Hudson’s Bay Company hopes to put a casino on Saks Fifth Avenue; Mets owner Steve Cohen may be teaming up with the Hard Rock for one in Willets Point, Queens; and Thor Equities gambles on Coney Island.

Another last-minute bid could come from Larry Silverstein, who would set up a casino at his so-called Mercedes-Benz site on Eleventh Avenue, the source said.

Each bid will cost applicants $1 million. The state has not announced when it will decide the winner of the Big Apple.

Suggested rendering of the new Penn Hotel website.
The new PENN 2 Tower rising near Penn Station on Seventh Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets features The Bustle, a dramatic new 80,000 square foot entrance atrium.

A casino near Penn Station could change the chemistry of a district that Hochul and Vornado have touted as the promised land for new, state-of-the-art offices. But Roth derailed the state’s plan last month when he told investors the time was not right for new, ground-up development.

Roth’s outlandish remarks are said to have startled the Empire State Development Agency, which is in charge of the project.

As The Post reported, Hochul’s recent State of the State address made no mention of the ambitious, controversial project, which could cost $306 billion over 20 years to complete.

More surprisingly, it didn’t even appear in the governor’s 267-page “Realizing the New York Dream” agenda released in conjunction with her speech, which touted 147 “bold initiatives” for the state.

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