Out with the old, in with the new is becoming fashionable in a post-COVID-19 environment, especially in the gambling ecosystem. A number of casino operators are breathing new life into their old properties as they emerge from the coronavirus destruction, hoping that fresh fixtures and amenities will quickly attract the crowds. New York’s Yonkers Raceway has been added to that group after MGM Resorts International injected $500 million to upgrade the 122-year-old harness track.
Yonkers Raceway Gets a Needed Overhaul
The last time Yonkers received any significant TLC was in 2006, according to MGM, and 15 years is a long time to wait for one of New York’s most iconic tracks. The venue was first opened in 1899 and was called the Empire City Race Track back then, intent on offering harness racing and other activity. It had an on-again/off-again relationship with the area for the next 100 years until MGM bought it in 2019. The company paid $850 million in cash and stock for the purchase, turning it over to MGM Growth Properties, its real estate investment trust, while retaining operating rights.
A number of upgrades have been carried out over the past century as Yonkers has tried to make its image fit the times. The latest includes an updated track, with over 8,000 tons of new surface material installed on the half-mile oval track. That reportedly included 6,000 tons of recycled track material, 64 tons of lime and other surfacing material designed to make the track more resilient. Yonkers also now has 14-degree banks on the turn, reportedly the steepest in the country.
The upgrades began on May 31, Memorial Day in the US, and wrapped up on June 9. That was just in time for MGM to be able to wow its Yonkers fans, as the track reopened that same day. Now, with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and things returning to normal, the newly-renovated track will be able to hold events 234 days this year, helping restore the pre-coronavirus environment.
Yonkers to Showcase its Upgrades Next Month
The new track will show off its new look in spectacular fashion in a couple of weeks. Yonkers will host the $500,00 MGM Yonkers Trot and the $500,000 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes, its legs of harness racing’s Triple Crown, on July 2. Those events will undoubtedly a significant amount of attention and publicity for the track and its renovations. That, in turn, will likely attract more people to the gaming floor of Empire City Casino, which is attached to the track.
Empire City Casino has over 5,000 slot machines and electronic table games installed, but not all are currently available. Even though New York State’s commercial scene is returning to normal, there are still some restrictions and, this past May, Empire only had slightly more than 3,000 total machines available. Still, despite the reduction in availability, revenue is up. May brought $848.5 million in gross gaming revenue to the casino, only slightly less than the $865.3 million recorded in May 2019.