While legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are skeptical about whether it would be the right move right now, The Business Council of Westchester (BCW) continues its efforts in support of a full-scale gaming license for Empire City in Yonkers.
MGM bought Empire City and Yonkers Raceway from the Rooney family in a transaction worth about $850 million. Uri Clinton, Empire City’s new president and CEO, was making the rounds in Albany about a week ago to push for the state to issue a license that would allow MGM to add features in Yonkers now confined to upstate casinos and places such as Las Vegas.
Cuomo, for one, has expressed reservations about issuing full-scale licenses to downstate operators for fear of hurting the competitiveness of the upstate casinos. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose district includes Yonkers, have not thrown their support behind full-scale licenses for downstate operators. The upstate casinos currently have exclusivity for full-scale casino licenses in New York until 2023.
The idea of a full-scale gaming license for Empire City continues to be a key part of BCW’s legislative agenda, John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO of the BCW, told the Business Journal during a March 21 interview.
“It is a proven revenue generator for the state and for the county,” Ravitz said. The current 1,200 jobs and payroll of about $45 million could be just the beginning, he suggested. “We can now look at Empire City to continue to generate more revenue, to continue to generate more jobs and they also want to have a master plan to talk about the rest of their property.”
Ravitz said a full-scale gaming license could be the first step in a jackpot of new development at the Yonkers facility.
“Imagine working with the community to create not just the casino but now a hotel – an arena where we can have conventions and sporting events and concerts. Think about the revenue that that’s going to generate for Westchester County and think about how it will be a great incubator for workforce development.”
The BCW’s backing of MGM is not just about gambling, Ravitz said.
“We’re promoting jobs. We’re promoting opportunities. It’s about the experience and making it a destination spot for tourists (from) all over the country.”