Supporters of Vegas-style gambling in New York are hoping that new Gov. Kathy Hochul will be more willing to introduce it in Queens and Yonkers than former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was. Officials for MGM Empire City Casino claim the venue could live up to its full potential if it gets a full-scale license, which would also financially benefit surrounding areas, according to Westchester County Executive Goerge Latimer.

“The economic impact to the city of Yonkers and the city of Mount Vernon of this site becoming a full casino is incalculable,” Latimer said, as reported by PIX 11. The County Executive’s words are being echoed by “A Sure Bet for New York’s Future”, an alliance made up of more than 60 businesses and community organizations in Westchester and the Bronx pushing for the gambling expansion.

According to the alliance, if Empire City Casino in Yonkers becomes full-scale, not only the county but the region would benefit from job creation and economic development. The venue first went from just a harness racing track to a “racino” with video gambling, but it currently can’t offer Vegas-style gambling.

Should this be approved, visitors would have a new, attractive gaming experience, as electronic games would be replaced with live dealer tables. Vegas-style slots, retail sports and more amenities could also be part of the improved offering, said John Ravitz, executive vice president of the Business Council of Westchester.

“We really believe that this is an opportunity to bring economic development to this area,” said Dwayne Norris, CEO of Soulful Synergy, a workforce development expert who is also part of the Bronx-Westchester coalition.

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Advocates see an opening with the downfall of Cuomo. “For whatever reason, he was always opposed to this,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, according to CBS New York. Pretlow says now is the time to create post-pandemic union jobs related to casino operations and construction.

Meanwhile, MGM said that, as soon as it gets a full gaming license, it is willing to spend $400 million on improvements, including a new sports betting facility and a new parking garage with direct access to the casino. A hotel, a conference center and a concert hall could “eventually” be added at a later stage, Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said.

“We know that this will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and thousands of jobs to this region,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said, according to the previously cited news source. However, as part of a seven-year hiatus put in place by Cuomo, the state gaming commission doesn’t currently have the legal authority to license downstate casinos before late 2023.

In consequence, Pretlow has introduced legislation that would repeal the hiatus. Cuomo initially set out that four casinos would be completed upstate first and, then, seven years later, downstate casinos could follow. In addition to the MGM Yonkers license, gambling supporters also expect an expansion for Resorts World’s video casino in Queens.

“The four upstate casinos were built. They’re fully operational now,” Pretlow said. “We’re four years into the seven-year waiting period. I believe that because of the success of the upstate casinos, we don’t have to wait any longer.” 

Officials hope Hochul will take a look at the legislation while in session in January, 2022. If the licenses are issued, Pretlow says they could be operational within a week, further reports Pix11.

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