All Of New York’s Casinos Are Back In Action With Empire City Reopening

Posted on September 29, 2020

The final piece of the New York gambling puzzle fell into place on Sept. 21. That was the date of the Empire City Casino reopening, which was the final facility in the state to reopen its doors amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a six-month total shutdown, patrons in Yonkers can visit the casino again. There are still some restrictions and safety precautions that guests should be aware of, however.

What to know about the Empire City Casino reopening

While the casino is back to business, that business doesn’t look like it did earlier this year. For example, guests still won’t be able to watch horse races at the site or place bets on those events in-person. Other restrictions include:

  • Required temperature screenings for guests
  • Mandatory face masks
  • Capacity limited to 25% of fire code
  • Bar service remains closed
  • Valet parking unavailable
  • Limited entry points
  • Limited gaming positions

The dining establishments inside the casino will soon welcome guests, but again, with restrictions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo set Sept. 30 as the resumption date for indoor dining.

In a similar fashion, the restaurants will have to space tables at least six feet apart. The dining spaces can seat no more than a quarter of their usual capacity at a time.

Diners must wear face coverings properly except when seated at their tables. Additionally, at least one member of the dining party must provide information for contact tracing.

Guests can make reservations for the Empire City Chophouse or The Pub online or by calling (914) 457-2531. While reservations are not mandatory, the casino strongly recommends them.

It’s uncertain how long these restrictions will continue. Cuomo and state health officials mandated most of these standards, so they will determine if and when to loosen them.

What will it take to loosen restrictions for New York casinos?

Cuomo has been consistent in his messaging that the future of restrictions for all businesses in his state depends on infection rates. State health officials and Cuomo expect to reevaluate the rules on Nov. 1.

Cuomo said that if things look good, he might up the capacity for indoor dining to 50% of fire code. Whether or not he would do the same for gaming floors of casinos remains unclear, however.

He was the last governor of a state with brick-and-mortar casinos to give them clearance to reopen with restrictions. He has also stated several times that spikes in COVID-19 positivity or hospitalizations could cause a swift reclosure or tightening of restrictions.

Westchester County, which Yonkers is part of, is currently sixth in the state as far as total positive tests go. Positivity rates had been increasing for four of the past six days, but the last two days have seen a decline.

As the casino is the largest employer in the city, it’s crucial to the local economy. Empire City has brought back half of its pre-pandemic workforce already.

At some point, Empire City may resume all of its entertainment and gaming options. For now, however, it’s a great thing that it’s open for business on any level.

Photo by AP Newsroom
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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