MGM CEO Jim Murren Suggests Casino Could Lead to More Sports for Yonkers Region

Posted on: October 14, 2019, 01:05h. 

Last updated on: October 14, 2019, 10:59h.

MGM Resorts International may use its ownership of the Yonkers New York Empire City Casino to expand regional sports and entertainment offerings, especially if it gets a license for additional gaming.

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren told business leaders the many benefits from a Yonkers New York casino, as it tries to get expanded gaming. Additional sports offerings in the region are possible. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In a recent keynote address, MGM CEO Jim Murren told local business leaders, “Clearly, we are thinking very strongly about sports and entertainment, expanding food and beverage offerings, making more of a regional destination in terms of conference space and business,” according to The Journal News.

During the annual meeting of the Business Council of Westchester, held in Rye Brook on Thursday, Murren suggested that Empire City could provide expanded sports franchises, additional conference space, and business opportunities at or near the 97-acre property, the report said.

In June, the casino announced a sponsorship with arena football team New York Streets. The National Arena League’s new franchise plays at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

We’re the company that brought the Vegas Golden Knights to Vegas,” Murren said at the dinner. “We host the Vegas Aces…. We’re the ones who helped the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders come to Las Vegas. And we work very deeply with the NBA in their summer league.

“Sports and live entertainment is a very big part of what we do,” Murren added. “We are really differentiated in how we use sports and entertainment to have a conversation.”

Casino expansion also would lead to additional jobs for the Westchester County region. If New York State approves a gambling expansion at the Yonkers venue, it could lead to three times as many jobs there over the current 1,200-member workforce, Murren said.

He said, too, that MGM collaborates with existing arts and business organizations to complement what is there, the report said. He wants to avoid direct competition.

“When you have 97 acres in Yonkers, the development canvas that you have to paint on is rich, diverse, and exciting,” Murren said.

In January, MGM Resorts closed on a deal to acquire Empire City for $850 million from the Rooney family. MGM has attempted to get New York State officials to allow downstate casinos licenses before 2023, when a current moratorium is set to end.

MGM Wants License for Expanded Gaming

MGM wants the Yonkers property to become a traditional casino sometime next year or in 2021. In March, MGM and another venue, Resorts World New York City, located in Queens and operated by Genting, both offered $500 million in licensing fees for expanded gaming.

They also could pay upstate casinos, which are struggling financially. Belmont Park in Elmont is also rumored for a possible casino location.

We are proud that [Empire City Casino] has been able to support a tremendous amount of money for the state for many years,” Murren said at the dinner. “We are just looking for a path to do more. The question really becomes why wait for these jobs? Why wait for the economic opportunity? Why wait to provide the economic jolt this type of development would have for the local community?”

Empire City is home to 5,200 slot machines and electronic games. Empire City’s electronic offerings include blackjack, three-card poker and roulette. But the establishment does not yet feature live table versions of those games.

Yonkers is located some 15 miles north of midtown Manhattan. Locally, the effort is supported by the Yonkers City Council, which in March passed a resolution supporting full table gaming, explaining that Empire City “cannot reach its full economic potential without … traditional slot machines, live gaming, or sports wagering,” according to The Journal News.

Opponents Question Downstate Expanded Casinos

So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is not enthusiastic. And one key political leader — Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, (D-Bronx) — has said he and some of his downstate colleagues are opposed to expanded gambling in the region.

MGM has argued that tax dollars are now going to neighboring states, which instead could be used to fund education and infrastructure in New York State. If expanded, the Yonkers casino could “spark economic growth for the region,” a spokeswoman for Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano told earlier this year.