MGM Resorts the new owner of Empire City Casino in New York

The Rooney family, known especially for their ownership of one of the NFL’s wealthiest franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the oldest franchise in the AFC and winner of six Super Bowl titles, no longer owns Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway, after on Tuesday, MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) closed on the $850 million acquisition.

Commission approval:

According to, on Monday at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the six-member New York Gaming Commission gave an unequivocal thumbs-up to a series of licenses to allow the Las Vegas-based global hospitality and entertainment company purchase the one-half-mile standardbred harness racing track and video-lottery terminal parlor in Yonkers, New York that has been in the Rooney family since 1972. According to the report, the approval of MGM’s licenses to own and operate the property came sans discussion.

“meaningful presence in the Northeast”

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for MGM Resorts, Jim Murren, said in a statement…

“We are pleased to welcome the 1,200 employees at Empire City Casino to the MGM Resorts family. Over the past three years, we have established a meaningful presence in the Northeast with Borgata in Atlantic City, MGM National Harbor in Maryland, and MGM Springfield in Western Massachusetts,” according to the Tuesday report.

May announcement:

MGM finalized the deal Tuesday after announcing in May that together with its real-estate investment trust (REIT), MGM Growth Properties LLC (NYSE: MGP), it had agreed to the terms for the purchase.

MGM said in a statement Monday…

“We appreciate the work of the New York Gaming Commission and the approval of our license. We couldn’t be more excited to become part of the Yonkers community and welcome Empire City’s 1,200 team members to the MGM Resorts family. MGM is looking forward to bringing another world-class entertainment destination to the Northeast.”

Unexpected cancellation:

The Gaming Commission was expected to approve the deal on January 3, however, that meeting was canceled unexpectedly and a new meeting had reportedly not been scheduled.

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Located at the intersection of Central Park Avenue and Yonkers Avenue, only 15 miles from Times Square in Manhatten, the 97-acre property covers over 150,000 square feet of floor space and features more than 5,300 video lottery terminals, electronic table games and several dining options.

Regional foothold:

Murren reportedly said that with the acquisition of Empire City Casino, “We have now gained a foothold in the high-density New York City region, and we look forward to leveraging the MGM platform to maximize value in this evolving marketplace.”

Plans for development:

With only 47 percent of the property developed at this time, MGM reportedly expects to further develop, possibly building a hotel and an entertainment venue, and ultimately adding live table games via a full-scale gaming license. As part of the terms of the deal, MGM agreed to pay an additional $50 million, which is contingent upon Empire City’s receipt of approval to host livetable games prior to the end of 2022.

Moratorium on expansion:

However, thanks to a state law, which started in March 1, 2016, putting a seven-year moratorium on casino expansion in New York, full-scale gaming within the New York City metropolitan area is currently prohibited until 2023. The law was reportedly intended to afford upstate casinos a chance to gain footing in the market before the NYC area could join.

According to the news agency, the Rooneys had thought about building the property out themselves but in 2017 ended up hiring New York City-headquartered multinational investment bank and financial services company, JP Morgan, to review the family’s options.

“tried-and-true formula for success”

Chief Executive Officer for Empire City Casino, Timothy J. Rooney, said in a statement…

“What’s incredibly exciting is the amount of opportunity MGM Resorts will bring to the employees at Empire City, as well as Westchester County, the city of Yonkers, and the State of New York. With destinations throughout the world, from resorts to casinos to entertainment, MGM has a tried-and-true formula for success.”

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The soon-to-be 82-year-old added that MGM knows “how to build and grow properties that continually raise the bar in entertainment, travel, and leisure, and we are so thrilled to leave Empire City in MGM’s capable hands.”

MGM Resorts, which has yet to detail its plans to expand the venue, is responsible for the $1 billion MGM Springfield which opened in Massachusetts on August 24, 2018, and the lucrative Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, along with its portfolio’s many other holdings.

Clinton appointment:

The company announced last month that Uri Clinton, one of its executives, would serve as president and chief operating officer for Empire City Casino.

Sports betting potential:

The move by MGM appears to be somewhat driven by the May 14, 2018, Supreme Court decision overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and its desire to get in on what New York and many other states around the country are rushing to do: serve a potential sports betting market.

Including New York, about 18 other 7BALL states have either recently passed or introduced sports betting bills, and while the first phase has started in the Empire State, with the Gaming Commission giving preliminary approval on January 28, 2019, to rules and regulations that would give the nod to sports wagering at four upstate casinos, the subject of mobile wagering was reportedly not discussed during Monday’s meeting.