Yonkers key to MGM’s New York gambling expansion plans

MGM Resorts is looking into casino options in New York. While New Jersey sportsbooks have flourished since sports betting was legalized last year, any major development of NY’s gambling infrastructure could spell trouble for the Garden State’s casino industry.

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren recently made a sales pitch to the Business Council of Westchester regarding the Yonkers Raceway and the attached Empire City Casino. MGM recently bought the property for $850 million, and Murren would like to add live gaming to a license that already covers harness racing, simulcasting, account wagering and video lottery.

He said, “Imagine for a moment. We have 1,200 employees, some of the greatest men and women in our industry. Imagine if there were 2,000 or 3,000 more employees.”

Murren then went onto tell the council about MGM’s role in the construction of T-Mobile Arena and the foundation of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights franchise.

He said, “Sports, whether it’s collegiate, high school or pro, is the future of what we believe to be the entertainment experience. We want to bring a lot of that content and experience to Westchester County.”


Murren tried to influence the council with big claims like, “You want to see Lady Gaga? I can bring her to Empire City.” That may just happen if MGM is given the green light to convert the Yonkers Raceway into a full-fledged casino property. The proposed redevelopment includes plans for a luxury hotel and an events center.

When MGM bought the Yonkers Raceway, the company agree to fork over another $50 million if live table games were up and running by 2022. However, the big feather in the cap would be the $500 million that Yonkers Raceway and Resorts World Aqueduct would pay once new casino licenses become available in 2023.

There are no guarantees that Yonkers Raceway and Resorts World Aqueduct would be granted casino licenses. The Resorts World Catskills, which is located 75 miles north of the Yonkers Raceway, has not enjoyed great success and that could complicate things for the Yonkers expansion.

The Resorts World Catskills is a $1 billion property and much of its revenue comes from busing in Asian tourists from Manhattan. If the Yonkers Empire City property is able to offer the same things but at a venue only nine miles away from the city, then many of those customers would abandon the Catskills casino.

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has looked to improve the economy of four struggling communities with the introduction of land-based casinos. In 2014 when the winning bids were picked, two that were rejected had the highest projected revenues. Both were located in Orange County, which lies between Yonkers and the Catskills.

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