Detailed Look At Empire City Casino If MGM Earns Downstate NY Casino License

Written By David Danzis on December 1, 2023 - Last Updated on February 6, 2024
entrance to mgm empire city casino in new york

MGM Resorts is throwing all its cards on the New York City casino table.

The Las Vegas-based gambling giant unveiled its plans this week to convert MGM Empire City Casino into a full-scale resort should it receive one of three available downstate New York casino licenses. MGM shared a news release with artistic renderings and a detailed proposal for the existing racino at Yonkers Raceway.

The plan’s first phase includes shifting Empire City from a video lottery terminal (VLT) operator to a class III gaming facility with live table games, slot machines and a high-limit area. It also calls for adding several new restaurants, lounges and bars, constructing a 5,000-seat live entertainment venue and building a parking garage.

A BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge featuring a 112-foot wrap-around LED screen, stadium seating, VIP areas and self-serve betting kiosks is also part of the plan, according to the news release.

“MGM Resorts has a long and proud history of delivering world-class entertainment and gaming experiences, and we couldn’t be more excited to build on that track record at MGM Empire City,” Bill Hornbuckle, president and CEO of MGM Resorts International, said in a statement.

“A full-scale casino and entertainment destination will provide unparalleled experiences, create thousands of jobs, boost the state’s economy, and be a game-changer for the entire region.”

‘Iconic’ Empire City Casino is an economic engine in Yonkers

MGM said Empire City’s existing 160,000-square-foot gaming floor is the largest in the company’s entire portfolio, which includes 31 properties worldwide. The company also claims Empire City is the largest taxpayer in Yonkers and one of the region’s largest private employers.

The commercial casino license is expected to generate more than $1 billion in new economic activity for the region, according to MGM.

“When MGM Resorts acquired Empire City Casino in 2019, we knew we were becoming stewards of a historic institution that has served generations of New Yorkers as a gathering place for entertainment, a source of jobs for the community, and a driver of economic development,” Ed Domingo, general manager of Empire City Casino, said in the release.

“As MGM Resorts prepares to enter its sixth year at the helm of this iconic property, we are excited to be able to combine the knowledge we have developed of the New York market with our expertise as a global entertainment brand, to bring the next chapter of New York’s entertainment landscape to the incredible community we are part of.”

Mayor says Empire City Casino is good for Yonkers

Local support is one of the requirements for awarding a downstate NY casino license. Unlike other proposed casino projects, the Empire City conversion has community backing.

“This is a momentous opportunity for the City of Yonkers, and I’m excited for the future, knowing the development of MGM Empire City will create thousands of good-paying union jobs and the economic growth that will ensure our city continues to flourish and prosper,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.

“Already drawing millions of guests annually, this development plan will solidify Empire City’s status as a premier entertainment destination. Generations of Yonkers residents have worked at, enjoyed, and supported this historic property for 125 years, and I am excited about the significant impacts this project will have for residents now and for the next 125 years.”

NYC casinos are coming … soon?

MGM is among nearly a dozen suitors for the three downstate NY casino licenses. Officials will award licenses to facilities within the five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester County.

It is expected, too, that any licensed retail casino operator will have the inside track to earn a New York online casino license once the vertical is legalized.

Many consider Empire City and Resorts World NYC at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens as frontrunners, although the formal application process has yet to begin.

Currently, NY gaming officials are responding to a second round of questions submitted by prospective applicants. Those answers should be available in the coming weeks.

Photo by MGM Resorts International
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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