MGM Empire City Revealed as Planned Upgrade for Empire City Casino, New York

November 30, 2023

Las Vegas-based gambling giant MGM Resorts International has debuted its ambitious plans to revamp the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, New York.

If granted an upcoming license, the plans will see it transition into a full-scale commercial casino named MGM Empire City (renderings pictured).

The current facility is a video lottery terminal and horse race betting venue, colloquially known as a “racino.”

The horse race track is a venerable New York institution which first opened for racing in 1899. The limited casino-style gambling opened in 2006, years before the venue was acquired by MGM in 2019.

Empire City Casino is one of two current racinos, the other being Resorts World New York, that are widely expected to be granted a full casino license in 2024.

Both projects are among a dozen big-ticket plans for downstate New York casinos, all competing for three licenses to be issued by state regulator the New York Gaming Commission.

“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,” MGM President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Hornbuckle said in a press release.

“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.”

Comprehensive Redevelopment

If MGM Resorts is a successful license bidder, the Empire City Casino will be in for a significant transformation.

The plans announced include the addition of live dealer table games, state-of-the-art slot machines, and a high-limit gaming area. As well as that, there will be a 5,000-capacity entertainment venue and various food and beverage outlets, with MGM promising collaborations with renowned local chefs.

The expansion and new license will also allow the project to incorporate a new Bet MGM-powered addition to the list of New York retail sportsbooks.

The BetMGM Sportsbook & Lounge will have a 110-foot, curved LED screen, multiple manned betting kiosks, and luxury seating booths. It will also include VIP areas and integrated food and drink service.

Additionally, there are plans for a new parking garage to improve guest access to the casino and its amenities.

Competitive Landscape but MGM Favored

The announcement of MGM’s plans puts it as one of the last of the developments to release major details. But it remains a favorite to take a license because of its existing infrastructure.

More than a dozen huge competing casino projects have been proposed for New York over the past year, featuring a Who’s Who of local billionaire investors and U.S gambling giants.

Wynn Resorts, in collaboration with Hudson Yards developer Related Companies, is one such team. It plans a $10 billion redevelopment project in the area, including a large casino and resort tower.

Other contenders for the licenses include Caesars Entertainment and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation in Times Square, Las Vegas Sands in Nassau County, and Bally’s in the Bronx.

MGM Supported by Yonkers Mayor

MGM’s proposal for Empire City is poised to significantly impact the local economy and community. The plans call for several thousand new jobs, potentially nearly 10,000 in total, to be initiated throughout the process.

The redevelopment also includes a commitment to continue the historic racing operations at Yonkers Raceway.

Empire City’s current status as Yonkers’s largest tax contributor and one of its largest private employers underscores the importance of this development for the local community. That kind of economic impact has convinced Yonkers’ mayor to come out in support of the project.

“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 in the press release from MGM.

“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.”

The plans are currently moving forward, with two rounds of a Q&A between license applicants and regulators now complete.

New York Mayor Eric Adams also recently began the process of making changes to zoning laws to facilitate the establishment of casinos within the city, with licenses due to be issued by mid 2024.

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