Empire City Casino Says Full Gaming License Would Create 2,500 Jobs at Yonkers Property

Posted on: November 29, 2022, 09:59h. 

Last updated on: November 29, 2022, 02:05h.

Empire City Casino in Yonkers is a front-runner for one of the three full-scale gaming licenses that become valid next year for New York’s downstate region.

Empire City Yonkers Raceway MGM Resorts New York
An aerial view of Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in New York. MGM Resorts, which operates the casino and racetrack, will apply for a full-scale downstate gaming license in 2023. (Image: Casino.org)

MGM Resorts operates Empire City, which is located at the historic Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County. Speaking recently with the Westchester Journal News, Taryn Duffy, vice president of public affairs for MGM Resorts’ Northeast Group, said the casino would go on a hiring spree should the facility receive one of the three full-scale gaming concessions.

Duffy said MGM would need to expand its Empire City Casino workforce by about 2,500 positions. The casino’s expansion from being only a video lottery terminal and electronic table game venue into a Las Vegas-style casino resort would also require several thousand temporary construction workers.

MGM says the license would additionally create thousands more indirect jobs by third-party contractors expanding their own operations to meet the casino’s growing demands.

MGM Solidifies Front-Runner Status

MGM Resorts agreed to acquire Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in May 2018 for $850 million. The sale from the Rooney family to the Las Vegas-based casino giant didn’t close until the following January.

MGM later sold the casino to its real estate investment trust (REIT), MGM Growth Properties, in a leaseback deal. MGM Growth Properties has since been acquired by VICI Properties — the REIT controlled by Caesars Entertainment.

MGM’s lease of Empire City was unimpeded by the property’s physical ownership changing hands. MGM pays VICI $50 million a year for the privilege of operating the casino and racetrack.

For Empire City to be allowed to incorporate traditional Las Vegas-style slot machines and live dealer table games, plus retail sports betting, MGM must obtain one of New York’s full-scale gaming licenses.

Once we are able to really offer this full spectrum of entertainment that players want and are currently leaving the state to get, it will allow us to further invest in the property,” Duffy said.

The state’s 2013 expansion of commercial casino gaming provided the four upstate casinos with a 10-year operating period free of downstate casinos. The downstate moratorium expires come 2023.

New York’s Gaming Facility Location Board will begin fielding casino bids early next year. The three winners aren’t expected to be announced until late next year. But the consensus among gaming industry analysts is that Empire City and Resorts World New York City in Queens, another VLT property downstate, are the odds-on favorites for two of the concessions.

Space Available

MGM says its Yonkers gaming venue is ready to expand into a full-scale casino. Duffy says the property currently utilizes about 40% of its 97 acres, with most of the utilized space presently being paved parking lots.

Yonkers Raceway opened in 1899 as a one-half-mile dirt track. The raceway hosted thoroughbred racing in its early days, the 1937 Triple Crown winner Seabiscuit winning the Scarsdale Handicap at Yonkers a year before making history.

The racetrack moved to strictly harness racing in 1942, and has remained as such since. The track’s casino opened in 2006 with 5,200 VLT machines and electronic table gaming positions.

Empire City Casino generated gross gaming revenue of $624.6 million during the 2021/22 fiscal year. A little more than half (50.5%) of the haul went toward supporting public education, which is where New York allocates its VLT and electronic table game revenue tax money.