New York GC Support Sale of Yonkers Raceway to MGM Resorts

Yonkers Raceway Sportsbook

Yonkers Raceway is home to Empire City Casino, one of a handful of New York racinos.

New York gaming regulators want the public to know they should not read anything into the cancellation of a Thursday hearing to decide on whether to approve the $850 million sale of Yonkers Raceway to MGM Resorts. The hearing was canceled late Wednesday evening.

The New York Gaming Commission said it had to cancel the hearing because it could not get enough board members to the meeting in time. To have an official hearing, a quorum including 3 of the 5 board members must be present.

The commission released the statement, “There are no issues with the transaction. It was a matter of process in holding the special meeting and getting a quorum.”

The gaming media has speculated that MGM Resorts wants to buy Yonkers Raceway in case the New York legislature approves and regulates land-based sports betting. If so, the Yonkers Raceway could become a lucrative site for a New York City-area sportsbook.

Mike Spano on Yonkers Raceway Cancelation

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said he was told by officials there is no problem with the sale. The Rooney family, which has owned Yonkers Raceway since 1973, is selling the race track-casino to MGM Resorts. The raceway has over 5,000 slot machines (VLTs), but it is the potential for opening a sportsbook that seems to have drawn MGM Resorts’ interest.

The potential for sports betting also might have forced the Rooney family out. The children of the late Art Rooney own the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the National Football League has embraced sports betting enough that the NFL front office and seven franchises signed sponsorship deals with Caesars Entertainment, NFL owners also owning a sportsbook might be a bridge too far.

MGM Resorts’ New York City Sportsbook

For MGM Resorts, operating a sportsbook in close proximity to New York City’s population of 20 million residents is too much to resist. While sports betting has a low margin, it draws sports fans and younger generation gamblers who might not otherwise visit a land-based casino.

The boost to traffic would be tremendous. Beyond that, access to NYC sports bettors would be more substantial than it would be from any other city in America.

Yonkers Raceway instantly became more valuable when the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on May 14, 2018. The Rooneys could have sat on the property, but it only made sense to sell the operator to a company which could maximize the location’s value.

MGM Resorts Company Profile

MGM Resorts is best known as the Las Vegas casino company which owns MGM Grand, Bellagio, and Mandalay Bay. It also owns substantial properties on the east coast, including the MGM National Harbor in Maryland, Borgata in Atlantic City, and MGM Springfield in Massachusetts.

That means MGM Resorts has a huge and growing database of east coast gamblers. Armed with such a database, the casino company could market to sports bettors throughout the American northeast.

New York Sports Betting Legislation

Of course, New York state would have to legalize sports betting first. It is unknown when that might happen, but an increasing number of top gambling companies are betting on the prospect.

This week, Caesars Entertainment signed a partnership deal with the Oneida Indian Nation (OIN), which owns 3 New York tribal casinos. Last month, New York newspapers reported that Las Vegas Sands is interested in a New York casino, partly because it could operate a sportsbook.