Yonkers Officials Call on New York State to Expand Sports Betting to Empire City, Resorts World NYC

Posted on: March 26, 2020, 12:05h. 

Last updated on: March 25, 2020, 03:06h.

Sports betting in New York is currently limited to the four upstate commercial casinos, as well as those operated by Native American tribes. But in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, downstate officials are seeking authorization.

New York sports betting Empire City Casino
Yonkers City Council is seeking permission from New York lawmakers to allow Empire City to add a sportsbook to its casino. (Image: Empire City Casino)

The seven-member Yonkers City Council voted unanimously earlier this month on a resolution urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the New York State Legislature to permit its Empire City Casino in Yonkers, as well as Resorts World New York City in Queens, to incorporate sports betting.

The effort comes as Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to temporarily close, including casinos. Both venues will be severely impacted by the loss of revenue, and sports betting could provide an assist once the venues reopen.

“This isn’t a big deal … to have the two downstate casinos, the one in Queens and the one here in Yonkers, handle this,” Yonkers Councilman Mike Breen told Westfair Online.

Since going live with land-based sports betting last July, sports wagering gross gaming revenue (GGR) has totaled $695K at Tioga Downs, $2.86 million at Del Lago, $4.24 million at Rivers Schenectady, and $1.7 million at Resorts World Catskills.

MGM Resorts acquired Empire City last year for $850 million in cash and stock from the Rooney Family.

Money Skipping Town

Prior to the cessation of professional and collegiate sports throughout the US because of the coronavirus crisis, train stations and rest stops across the Hudson River from New York in New Jersey were littered with sports bettors placing wagers on their mobile devices. With sports betting limited to upstate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in New York, many downstate New Yorkers are traveling into New Jersey to make their bets.

It’s driving over the bridge, millions of dollars,” Breen said of the New Yorkers traversing the George Washington Bridge. “That money could have been bet at the MGM casino, with some money coming back to the city of Yonkers.”

The Yonkers City Council resolution argues, “The projected state budget deficit and the loss of significant revenues to our neighboring states with legalized sports wagering combine to make it necessary for the state to act to legalize sports wagering in New York’s two downstate casinos.”

GGR from sports betting is taxed at 10 percent, with 80 percent of the money allocated for education and property tax relief.

Cuomo Odds Long

In February, responding to a question regarding whether he would support removing the ban on new casino licenses in New York until 2023, Cuomo answered, “These are complicated issues, and I am skeptical about quick, knee-jerk reactions to doing something like that, especially if it’s conditioned on money.”

Empire City and Resorts World NYC are both “racinos” – which aren’t permitted to offer table games or true slot machines. Instead, they feature electronic table games, and video gaming terminals (VGT) that closely resemble slots.

Cuomo presumably won’t be focusing much of his attention on the Yonkers City request anytime soon. The governor is leading the fight against the coronavirus disease, officials saying Wednesday that the state has 30,418 cases of the US’ 64,775 COVID-19 patients.

A 69-year-old man who worked at the Yonkers Raceway died March 10 from coronavirus complications.