Regional Alliance Formed to Push Lawmakers For Full Casino License for Empire City Casino
John Jordan | March 5, 2021
YONKERS—A group led by business and labor organizations in Westchester and the Bronx have formed an alliance called “A Sure Bet for New York’s Future” in support of a full gaming license and access to mobile sports betting for Empire City Casino in Yonkers by MGM Resorts.
A full-scale casino license, complete with retail and mobile sports betting and live table games, will create thousands of new, family-sustaining union jobs, while generating millions in additional annual wages and tax revenue that would directly benefit local communities, the alliance stated. A spokesman for Empire City Casino told Real Estate In-Depth that if awarded a full gaming license and sports betting access, MGM Resorts has committed to spend approximately $400 million in the first phase of its planned investment at the Yonkers property.
The initiative is being spearheaded by co-chairs: The Business Council of Westchester, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State message earlier this year said he intends to issue a Request for Information for interested parties in securing up to three of the remaining casino gaming licenses in Downstate New York (New York City metro region) to be granted by New York State.
While further details were not released, the New York State Gaming Commission noted that the proposal, if part of the state budget, would have to be approved by the State Legislature by the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2021).
The addition of up to three casino gaming facilities in the New York City metro region that might include: Empire City Casino in Yonkers, Resorts World New York at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens—both operating as Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) facilities—and perhaps at the new Belmont complex in Nassau County or at a site to be developed in Manhattan. If the downstate initiative does move forward, the state would be beginning the process early, since the state’s gaming law bans the award of downstate casino licenses until 2023.
The “A Sure Bet for New York’s Future” alliance is focused on ensuring that the region is not left behind as the state considers implementing mobile sports betting.
“A full-scale casino license for Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts in Yonkers is a no brainer,” said John Ravitz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Business Council of Westchester. “The brick and mortar are already in place. 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. And if New York is going to legalize mobile sports betting, MGM Resorts must be able to compete for a license. BetMGM is one of the top mobile sports betting platforms in the country, and New York needs and deserves the best operators.”
“There is overwhelming support among Bronx residents, community leaders, and businesses for Empire City to become a full-scale casino because we already have benefitted from Empire City’s presence,” said Lisa Sorin, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “A full-scale casino license for Empire City will no doubt have a direct impact on the Bronx. We urge the Governor and the Legislature to allow Empire City to develop into a full-scale casino so we can start to see the jobs and the revenue our state needs this fiscal year.” Sorin said that the expected investment by Empire City would provide sorely needed jobs for the Bronx, which is currently suffering from an unemployment rate of approximately 15%.
“A full-scale casino license at Empire City will support the creation of thousands of new union jobs from the more than $1 billion impact it will have on the region,” said Thomas Carey, president of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body. “Think of all of the union jobs this will create for business and our Building and Construction Trades brothers and sisters as well as food service employees, security, and the endless opportunities as we advance. If Albany wants to prioritize economic recovery, they must allow Empire City to apply for a full-scale casino license as soon as possible.”
The Alliance co-chairs sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker James Heastie, asking that a defined process be put in place to allow Empire City Casino to be able to pursue a full-scale commercial casino license so that the state can immediately benefit from this turnkey private economic development project.
“We are thrilled to see such strong support across Westchester and the Bronx for the future of Empire City Casino,” said a spokesperson for Empire City Casino. “Before the pandemic, Empire City Casino was proud to be the largest private employer in Yonkers and we can play a pivotal role in New York’s recovery by bringing back well-paying jobs, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in capital development, and generating hundreds of millions of immediate revenue dollars through full-scale casino and mobile sports betting license fees.”
The spokesman added, “We remain committed to hiring and investing locally. Many of Empire City Casino’s employees are from Yonkers, the Bronx, Mount Vernon and across lower Westchester. MGM Resorts is a demonstrated leader in supporting local Minority, Women, and Veteran owned businesses in the regions in which we operate and we are committed to replicating that focus in New York.”
The planned $400-million first phase would include an enclosed and attached parking garage to shield patrons from inclement weather. Estimates on the development of the parking garage have run to as high as $160 million. Also planned would be renovations of the existing facility and the development of a sports bar in connection with the sports betting operaitons, the Empire City spokesperson noted.
On Jan. 29, 2019 MGM Resorts International acquired Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway for $850 million. The Rooney family acquired the storied Yonkers Raceway property in 1972 and opened the highly successful Empire City Casino in October 2006.
The alliance, which launched with nearly 30 members, is actively seeking additional members. Other alliance members to-date include:
• 100 Hispanic Women of Westchester
• Big Brothers Big Sisters of FSW
• C&F Consulting Engineering, P.C.
• Dan Schorr, LLC
• Delbello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr, LLP
• Forme Medical Center and Urgent Care
• Green Grass Real Estate
• HV Gateway Chamber
• IAFF Local 628 Yonkers Firefighters
• IQ Contracting Inc & Associates
• Kings Capital Construction
• KVL Audio Visual Services Inc.
• Local 3 IBEW / Westchester Central Labor Body
• Marx Realty, Cross County Shopping Center
• Nicholas & Lence Communications
• Norcom Solutions
• NorthMarq Capital, LLC
• Progressive Computing Inc.
• Robert Martin Company
• Skyqueen Enterprises
• The DeLuca Group
• United Black Clergy of Westchester
• Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body
• Yankwitt LLP
• Yonkers Avenue Dental
• Yonkers Chamber of Commerce
• Zeidel & Associates P.C.