MGM Ready To Chip In Billions To Upgrade Empire City Should It Receive Full-Scale Casino License

Written By Mike Mazzeo on May 3, 2022 - Last Updated on May 6, 2022
MGM Empire City New York Casino Invest Billions Upgrades

MGM stands prepared to make $2 billion worth of upgrades to its existing video lottery terminal facility in Yonkers should it receive a full-scale NY casino license from the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC).

“We’re eager to begin the RFA process,” MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in his opening remarks on Monday’s company earnings call, “and share our vision for the future of the property in Yonkers. …

“We’re excited by this opportunity and look forward to investing in New York to create new jobs and foster economic growth in the region.”

Hornbuckle jokes about $500 minimum NY casino licensing fee

MGM Empire City is considered one of the frontrunners — along with Resorts World NYC — in the open competitive bidding process for a downstate New York casino license. The most significant factor in that favored status: speed to market. On top of that, MGM and Resorts World also won’t have to deal with zoning regulations or community opposition. Each has already gone through that process when becoming VLTs in the state.

Each of the state’s downstate casino licenses will cost a minimum initial fee of $500 million. Minimum tax rates of 25% on slots and 10% on other games also exist.

“It’s kind of interesting; we’re talking about a half-a-billion-dollar fee as favorable. It’s the highest in the history of the industry by five times,” Hornbuckle joked. “Having said that, we like where Gov. Hochul went with it; we like the opportunity it creates.”

Hornbuckle detailed what types of upgrades MGM will need on the 97-acre property should it obtain a license:

“We had hoped to invest up to a couple billion in the first round, Phase 1, to put us into the table games business, to expand some of the amenities and put in a much-needed parking garage there, an entertainment facility there and potentially some other things. We think that will attract the kind of market that’s available to us both in the neighborhoods and the surrounding areas.”

MGM confident in chances for downstate NY casino license

Hornbuckle doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, though. And the process remains very much in the early stages. The NYSGC must select a gaming facility location board by Oct. 6. The board will then issue a request for applications within 90 days of appointing a majority of members.

“We don’t want to be presumptuous,” he said. “Obviously, we like where we stand. I think we’ve served the community well, and in turn, they’re prepared to support us. We’re going to go like hell to make sure that the day this happens (if we get a license) that slot machines are ready to go into the building. And we’re going to flip out roughly 1,000 machines, give or take, to bring in tables as soon as we possibly can within months.

“And we’re going to make an assessment on a parking facility and when to go on that a master plan. We had to ultimately get our head around the master plan, which we’re working on diligently now. I wouldn’t mind under any circumstance — parking needs to be a real piece of this. But it’s a couple of billion dollars, and we’re going to be thoughtful about how quickly we do go when it’s all said and done.”

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is the Lead Writer for PlayNY, arriving after covering several of New York's professional sports teams in a variety of roles for the past decade. Previously, he served as a beat writer and columnist covering the Brooklyn Nets (ESPN) and New York Yankees (New York Daily News). Mike also covered both the MLB and NBA nationally for Yahoo Sports. In addition, he served as a general assignment reporter for ESPN NewYork.com. He has also had bylines in the New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, Forbes and The Ringer. With PlayNY, Mike brings extensive coverage and unique story angles to what is projected to be one of the biggest and most lucrative online sports betting markets in the country. It's been an arduous and confounding process to get here, but 20 million New Yorkers (many of them die-hards) are now legally able to bet on their favorite sports teams across the state via online and mobile platforms.

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