Revenue of up to $ 800 million is believed possible if full casinos open in Yonkers, Queens and New York City, according to an advisory report.
To fill financial gaps and create more local jobs, New York State should pull the lever for a full gaming license for Empire City Casino in Yonkers, a newly formed alliance that began Thursday morning.
A group of 30 companies, unions and community organizations have come together to put pressure on lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo to license Empire City, which would enable live table games, as well as retail and mobile sports betting.
The consortium of groups called "A Safe Bet for New York's Future" is sponsored by the Business Council of Westchester's Executive Vice President John Ravitz, President of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body, Tom Carey, and President of the Chamber of Commerce of Bronx, Lisa Sorin, co-directed.
Empire City Casino in Yonkers reopened after it closed on September 21, 2020 due to the coronavirus shutdown. (Photo: Peter Carr / The Journal News)
"Empire City was a proven winner for New York State," Ravitz said during a Zoom press conference, calling the decision "a no-brainer".
MGM Resorts bought Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway in early 2019 for $ 850 million.
The MGM leadership has signaled since buying it that they want to become a full-fledged casino. However, there is a moratorium through 2023 that would prevent Empire City from applying for a full license.
The renewed push comes after a report by a state advisor stated that there could be revenues of $ 500 million to $ 800 million if Empire City and a Queens casino were fully utilized and / or the state new casinos in New York City allows. Although he has remained a mom on the matter, Cuomo has included a budget line that will allow the Gambling Commission to solicit information from casinos interested in the three unissued gaming facility licenses approved by the state constitution.
Cuomo and some lawmakers were unwilling to license the downstate casinos in full as it could affect the bottom line of the upstate casinos.
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The full license would help close the state's sizable deficit and get people back to work, argued Ravtiz. The casino has already been expanded to accommodate the additional offer, he said.
Ravitz encourages other companies and organizations to join the alliance. The Yonkers Chamber of Commerce and the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce are two such organizations.
"We'll be present," said Ravitz. "If the world were back to normal, we would be in Albany every day knocking on doors."
Eunice Tamakloe (left) and Juane Sambo de la Rosa of The Bronx are playing a slot machine on the first day of the reopening of the Empire City Casino in Yonkers on September 21, 2020. (Photo: Peter Carr / The Journal News)
A spokesman for the casino said Empire City is thrilled to have strong support in Westchester and the Bronx.
"Before the pandemic, Empire City Casino prided itself on being the largest private employer in Yonkers, and we can play a vital role in New York's recovery by bringing back well-paying jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in capital development, and hundreds generate millions of instant revenue dollars through licensing fees for casino and mobile sports betting in full, "the spokesman said in a statement. "We continue to strive to hire and invest locally. Many of the Empire City Casino employees are from Yonkers, the Bronx, Mt. Vernon and across Lower Westchester."
Carey, the union leader, said a full casino license would result in "thousands of new family-sustaining union jobs."
"If Albany is to prioritize economic recovery, Empire City should be able to apply for a full casino license immediately," said Carey.
Empire City was badly hit by the shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic and had to keep its 1,000 employees busy while doors were closed. When the casino reopened in September, it welcomed half of its workforce with changes related to health and safety.
But when the state mandated a nightly 10 p.m. Curfew late last year resulted in a full shift vacation that affected hundreds of employees, a casino spokesman said.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano told The Journal News that a full license to Empire City is a "game changer" for the city. He said the change could result in 6,000 casino jobs and launched the idea of a convention center or sports venue.
The additional full tax revenue from the license would help improve educational aid to the Yonkers schools, meaning the city would be less reliant on the state for much-needed funding.
"The possibilities seem limitless," said Spano. "And let's face it, we know Yonkers will be successful, and when we know Yonkers is a safe bet and we have a tough budget, why not use a sure thing?"
New York State Editor Jon Campbell and US TODAY Network's Atlantic Group Editor, Joe Spector, contributed to this report.
David Propper covers New Rochelle and the coastal cities. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: dg_props. Our local reporting is only possible with the support of our readers.
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