Harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway on June 22, although without fans present, the Business Journal was advised by a spokesperson for Empire City Casino and the raceway.
Approval was received late last week from the New York State Gaming Commission for operations to resume. Although the public will not be permitted to attend, the fans can view races that will be live streamed on empirecitybets.com and also place wagers through the website.
Initially, the racing will be limited to Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, with a post time of 7:05 p.m. The spokesperson said, “As always, the health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority.”
The raceway intends to be following safety guidelines from the Gaming Commission including temperature checks and health screenings for personnel, installation of no-touch fixtures along with disinfecting stations, implementation of protocols for cleaning and sanitizing, use of face masks and requirements to maintain social distancing.
The history of the race track dates from 1899 when it was opened by William Clark’s Empire City Trotting Club. After Clark died the next year, the track was closed for horse racing until 1907 when it was reopened under the ownership of James Butler. In 1936, the horse Seabiscuit won the Scarsdale Handicap at Empire City. It became a harness track in 1942. In 1972, the Rooney Family acquired Yonkers Raceway and in 2019 MGM Resorts closed on its purchase of the raceway and Empire City Casino from the Rooneys for $850 million.
The raceway was in the news back in March after a longtime trainer there, who was the Standardbred Owners Association of New York’s director representing horsemen at the venue, passed away at his New Jersey home from COVID-19. Raceway employees that may have been in contact with him went into self-quarantine and the raceway was closed.
The spokesperson said that none of the Empire City Casino gambling, restaurant or beverage facilities has resumed operation and no reopening dates have been set.