Empire City Casino breaks ground on $40 million expansion
About half, or 30,000 square feet, of the expansion will be allocated to gaming, and most of that will be taken up by 400 new electronic table games, which have typically generated three times the house average in revenue at the existing facility since they were introduced last year. Food and beverage will be expanded by 20,000 square feet, including one restaurant which is expected to be operated by a celebrity chef, and the entrance will take up 6,000 square feet. The balance of the expansion, which is expected to be completed in early 2012, will be allocated to administrative space.
“This will provide our customers with a more enjoyable time when they’re in the facility,” said Tim Rooney, Jr., general counsel. “They will have more space and more amenities.”
The announcement comes at time when Empire City faces new competition from Resorts World New York Casino at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens, and the recently opened hotel at Sands Bethlehem. The Aqueduct facility is expected to open around October 1 with 2,500 machines, and will have over 5,000 machines when the $350 million project is fully up and running. Sands Bethlehem, for its part, runs about 40 buses per day out of lower Manhattan, and its new hotel is seen by many to be a magnet for live table game players in New York.
Rooney told Casino Journal that the Sands hotel, “hasn’t had an impact,” on Empire City. As for Aqueduct, he thinks it will raise awareness of gaming in the New York City area and grow the market overall. “There is a lot going on in this market from an entertainment standpoint,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people I talk to who still don’t know we’re here. We continue to grow into our market.”
Empire City Casino opened in the fall of 2006, and the project has steadily raised its marketing profile since then, partially on the strength of liberalized state marketing allowance rules. It operates over 5,300 gaming machines and, last year, generated $300 million for the New York State Lottery, which operates all racetrack gaming in New York, representing 10% of the lottery’s total contribution to education. Total revenue for the property last fiscal year was $595 million.