Support for Downstate New York Casinos Grows in Lower Hudson Valley

Posted on: March 5, 2021, 10:52h. 

Last updated on: March 5, 2021, 12:04h.

Support for downstate New York casinos is escalating in the Lower Hudson Valley, as a newly formed coalition of area business, labor unions, and community leaders has emerged.

New York casino Empire City
Gamblers bet on video poker machines at Empire City Casino, seen here, in 2019. Area business and community leaders in the Lower Hudson Valley want the casino to be permitted table games and sports betting. (Image: USA Today)

“A Sure Bet For New York’s Future” is led by the Business Council of Westchester Executive Vice President John Ravitz, Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body President Tom Carey, and Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Sorin.

Along with more than 30 businesses, the coalition is urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and state lawmakers to lift the moratorium on downstate full-scale casino operations. That would allow MGM Resorts’ Empire City Casino in Yonkers to pursue table games and sports betting privileges.

A full-scale casino license for Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts in Yonkers is a no-brainer,” Ravitz said during a virtual news conference announcing the alliance.

“A full-scale casino license will enhance the existing facility and is a clear path to providing significantly more revenue for the state, offering union jobs, and supporting the entire region,” he continued.

MGM Resorts has promised the state large benefits in exchange for table games and sports betting at Empire City. The casino giant says it would hire more workers and generate much larger gaming tax revenue for the state and local area, which supports education.

Economic Boost Needed

When New York legalized four upstate commercial casinos in 2013, the legislation included a 10-year moratorium on any full-scale gaming properties being located in the downstate area. The freeze was designed to allow the upstate casinos to have time to lure downstate residents, build their customer bases, and create an economic spark in the regions.

The idea has largely failed, as the brick-and-mortar, upstate casinos haven’t come anywhere near their pre-market revenue forecasts. And now COVID-19 has devastated the downstate economy, as businesses have closed and residents flee.

“If granted a full-scale casino license, complete with live dealer table games, retail, and mobile sports betting, Empire City would have the opportunity to generate significantly more revenue, speed up the state’s recovery, and create new jobs with tens of millions in additional annual wages,” the letter from “A Sure Bet For New York’s Future” to Cuomo declared.

“Empire City further boosts our local economy by purchasing from local businesses, driving visitor traffic, and supporting local community organizations,” the letter added.

Much Interest Downstate

New York’s two downstate slot machine and electronic table game casinos — Empire City and Resorts World New York City in Queens — are expected to be issued full casino rights in 2023. The state’s commercial gaming law allows one additional full-scale casino license to be issued.

Las Vegas Sands, which is in the process of changing its name to just “Sands” after announcing this week its plans to sell off its Las Vegas properties, has expressed much enthusiasm in Manhattan.

Sands CEO Rob Goldstein said in January that the firm is “deep in the hunt” regarding New York City’s potential casino opportunity.