Rendering of the future look of the Empire City Casino
at Yonkers Raceway
Pumping a ton of money into a business in this economy may seem like a foolish gamble. But the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway believes the odds are in its favor.
Empire City is in the midst of a $40 million expansion, adding 66,000 square feet of space for offices, two new restaurants, an additional 400 electronic table games, and more. Completion is scheduled for next spring.
Since the company is privately owned, it does not release earnings and revenue figures. But a look at the numbers that are available is quite revealing. Since opening in the fall of 2006, the casino has contributed more than $1 billion to the state’s education fund and about $105 million to the city of Yonkers. Just last year, according to the New York Lottery, profits from the casino put more than $23 million into the coffers of the Yonkers School District.
The Raceway overall also has become Yonkers’s biggest private employer, Timothy J. Rooney, Jr., general counsel of Empire City Casino, points out. “We’ve got twelve hundred good-paying jobs here. The construction is also producing almost two hundred jobs, and the new facilities will create about one hundred more fulltime permanent positions.”
Local officials say other businesses are also reaping the benefits. “There are people coming here from outside the region who wouldn’t be here otherwise,” says Ellen Lynch, CEO and president of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency. “So they’re buying gas or stopping at restaurants or going to the Cross County Mall for shopping and doing different things along the way. There’s a big, big multiplier effect from that.”
It hasn’t always come up triple 7s for Empire. “We started off slowly,” admits Rooney, “because it’s a difficult and expensive market, but we understand the market a lot better now and we’ve had very effective advertising that’s helped create awareness.”
And how is the casino faring amid this weak economic environment? “We have seen our spend-per-customer drop a bit,” Rooney says, “but we’re still growing. People are still discovering there’s a full-fledged casino nearby, so as we continue to get the word out, our numbers continue to improve.”
The next major challenge facing Empire City will be the competition from the new Aqueduct racino gaming facility, due to open in Queens in late October. “We expect we’re going to take a little bit of a haircut,” Rooney says.