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MGM Resorts International To Buy Empire City Casino, Yonkers Raceway For $850 Million

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's one of the biggest business deals ever in the city of Yonkers.

A major player in the gaming industry is buying Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway.

Experts say MGM Resorts International is placing a bet on expanded Las Vegas-style gaming, just 15 miles north of Times Square, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Tuesday.

Empire City Casino
A look inside Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. (Photo: CBS2)

The biggest name in Vegas is making a move on Yonkers. MGM Resorts is cutting a deal worth $850 million to purchase the casino and raceway.

"Twenty years ago, it was a sleepy harness track with very little future," said John Sabini of Sabini, Crowley & Associates, LLC.

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A gaming expert, Sabini says the future could be golden, depending on how things unfold.

Currently, Empire City offers slot machines and video lottery terminals, but no live table games. However, in 2021 or soon after, New York is set to license more Vegas-style table gaming.

"MGM would like to see a license granted to them, and they would have a lucrative facility at Yonkers, just over the city line," Sabini said.

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Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano told CBS2's Aiello he can't imagine MGM is buying the place to maintain the status quo. He said he hopes the company thinks big. The property has close to 50 acres available for potential development.

"If they build a convention center, build a hotel, expand their gaming, create a true destination for people to come, spend their entertainment dollars, it brings more jobs, more tax revenues. Certainly we could use both," Spano said.

Gamblers seemed split about the idea.

"I've been to Vegas and I won, I think it will be good," one person said.

"I'm not impressed. I lose either way. But the hotel would be good for a lot of people," another said.

For its part, MGM Resorts wouldn't talk about future plans. CEO Jim Murren released a statement which said, "This acquisition represents an excellent opportunity to further solidify our presence on the East Coast, and in particular, expand our reach into the high-density New York City region."

State regulators are expected to give the deal a close look, but experts expect it to cross the finish line relatively easily, Aiello reported.

The casino and raceway are currently owned by the Rooney family, which also controls the Pittsburgh Steelers. The deal is structured so if New York allows table gaming at the casino by 2022, MGM will pay the Rooneys an extra $50 million.

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