MGM Resorts Enters Ohio Gaming Market as MGM Northfield Park Opens Its Doors

Posted on: April 10, 2019, 11:10h. 

Last updated on: April 10, 2019, 11:35h.

From Wednesday, gamblers visiting the Northfield Park racino, near Cleveland, will be greeted by a seven-foot-tall statue of Leo the Lion. That’s because the track, known as “the Home of the Flying Turns” and for its motto “Every nineteen minutes the place goes crazy,” is now an MGM Resorts property.

Northfield Park
Northfield Park has been outperforming its competitors in the Ohio market, despite not being permitted to offer table games. Its $1 billion acquisition by MGM Growth Properties will see it leased back to MGM Resorts as operator. (Image: MGM Resorts)

Formerly the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, Ohio’s busiest gaming venue reopens Wednesday as the MGM Northfield Park, becoming only the second racetrack to be owned by the casino giant, along with Yonkers Raceway.

Both Northfield Park and Yonkers were acquired last year by MGM Growth Properties, for $1 billion and $850 million, respectively. MGM Growth is a real-estate investment trust (REIT), spun off from MGM Resorts in 2015.

The racinos represent the first new properties to be purchased by the REIT, which took over the ownership of ten MGM casinos on its formation. Both racinos will be leased back to its majority owner, MGM Resorts, for operation.

Expansion in the Works?

Like Yonkers, Northfield Park is not permitted to offer full-scale casino gaming, although you wouldn’t know from looking at its financial results. Currently, only slots and pari-mutuel betting are allowed at the venue — and although table games are spread at the state’s other four casinos, the racino is the market-leader in Ohio, despite its  disadvantage on paper.

Ohio has not yet passed a law to regulate sports betting, although bills have been introduced in the legislature, and the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, has said he expects legalized sports betting in the near future.

I would love to see growth in all channels,” MGM’s Chris Kelley, who has been installed as Northfield Park’s president, told “But I also realize that it is a decision for the lawmakers and regulators.”

MGM’s powerful lobbyists will no doubt be working tirelessly to assist lawmakers in this undertaking. But the promise of investment may also help politicians consider expanding gambling for the racino. Kelley said it is possible that MGM will add a new hotel tower to Northfield Park, although he added that plans had not yet been finalized.

Lions in the Arena

Northfield Park was not the only venue to be sporting new MGM branding this week. A roaring lion was prominently displayed in the center of Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” – the popular nickname for the green leftfield wall at the Boston Red Sox’s stadium.

MGM recently opened a $950 million resort in Springfield, Massachusetts, and it was announced last month that MGM had been made the Red Sox’s “official and exclusive resort casino,” which will allow it to have “visible messaging behind home plate, Red Sox radio, and other team-controlled media outlets.”

The unveiling was attended by MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, a lifelong Red Sox fan.