Empire Casino: an Adventure a Half-Hour Away

Just don’t lose your shirt!

BY PAMELA STERN

It’s a sizzling summer at Empire City Casino located at Yonkers Raceway and it’s about to get even hotter as rock n’ roll legend Pat Benatar is set to play this weekend, August 12, as part of Empire City’s summer concert series.

While the summer concerts have been a big draw, Empire City fans are excited about the casino’s expansion set to be revealed this fall. The 66,000 square foot expansion will include a new casino entrance will include a high-tech porte-cochère that will not only enhance the architecture of the structure, but also provide necessary protections for guests during inclement weather.

After six years in business, Empire City Casino has made its mark in the region and is clearly here to stay.

“We are proud to be Yonkers’ largest employer with 1,200 employees and we are committed to this community,” Empire City Casino’s President and owner, Timothy J. Rooney, said. “As we grow and expand everyone benefits. By investing in Yonkers and Empire City, we will create new jobs and provide critically needed revenue for our schools, our community and our state during difficult economic times.”

The expansion will include two new restaurants. ‘Pinch’ will be an innovative premium casual American grill and Dan Rooney’s Cafe& Bar will be a fun take on the classic Irish pub. These new restaurants and an overhaul of existing offerings are in full swing.
The restaurants will encompass a large portion of the additional 66,000 square foot space currently being constructed.

Pinch will offer an in-house growler shop in the restaurant where guests can take their favorite tap beer home in their own growler bottles. Dan Rooney’s Cafe& Bar will offer a high-energy atmosphere catering to sports enthusiasts, with flat screen televisions throughout the pub for live sporting events and simulcast horseracing, as well as an authentic betting cage located in the pub where guests can place wagers.

This is inspired by the original Dan Rooney’s Cafe & Bar built and operated in the early 1900s in Pittsburgh by the family of Tim Rooney, the current owner and operator of Empire City Casino. Yes, that’s the same Rooney family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers and other prominent American businesses. The plan is for the new Dan Rooney’s Cafe & Bar will be warm, inviting and casual, featuring dual flame rotisseries, private “snugs” for intimate seating, two fireplaces, and plenty of musical entertainment with nightly dueling pianos.

Dan Rooney’s will also feature two vintage style bowling lanes, inspired by turn of the century bowling alleys, on the second level of the pub. Taking the typical Irish pub to the next level, Dan Rooney’s will prepare high-quality traditional pub food created by chef Christopher Lee, and will feature a carving station for open-flame rotisserie.

Empire City’s Food Court will be undergoing a renovation and be reintroduced as The Big Kitchen at Empire Plaza. The Big Kitchen will feature an all new coffee bar and five distinct cooking stations, including New Original Ray’s, The Fry Shack, Empire Grill, Canton Kitchen and Noodle Shop, and Corner Deli.

Both Nonno’s  Italian restaurant and the Empire Terrace Restaurant will both have menu enhancements and regular promotional events. Other changes that are planned for the property in the near future, include the revamping of the trackside Grab ‘N Go which will not only be renamed but also upgraded into a full service grill with a little Latin flare.

The Rooney family makes a point to keep Empire City involved in the community.

Empire City and the Rooney family hosted a group of active military personnel who were wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, along with family members of the troops, to a lunch at actor Robert DeNiro’s famed Tribeca Grill. This lunch is the second that the Rooney’s and Empire City Casino have hosted for wounded military members in conjunction with a trip that is organized by the Baltimore Police and Operation Homefront to bring veterans currently residing at Walter Reed Medical Center to New York City for a well-deserved outing.

This was a small gesture compared to what these brave men and women have given of themselves,” said Timothy J. Rooney, Jr. “We are honored to have been given the opportunity to do this for them.” On August 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Empire City is hosting a veterans only job fair, as an aid to those who’ve served in the military and now are back home looking for work.

Empire City also has established itself as an entertainment venue in addition to a center for gaming. The ongoing summer concert series has proven to be a success. Some upcoming shows are:

8/12 – opening act: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo at 5:45 and main act: John Miller  at 6:30 p.m.
8/19 – opening act: Otis Day and the Knights at 7 p.m. and main act: Curbside Hustle at 8 p.m.
8/26 – opening act: Sara Evans at 7 p.m. and main act: Rachel Allyn at 8 p.m.

“It’s a really intimate setting,” said Taryn Duffy, director of Public Affairs. “We’ve been at max capacity for most of the concerts so far. The concert series have been terrific and the guests have really enjoyed them.  The Marshall Tucker Band was a complete sell out so that’s been the most popular so far, but we suspect that the Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and our other concerts will be just as successful. Will there be more concerts to follow after the August Summer Series No word on this yet but as the greatest entertainment destination in the region, there’s never a shortage of fun and exciting things to do here at Empire City Casino.”

During the month of August Empire City has some new and exciting promotions for its patrons. Some of the new things include the refreshing of the gaming floor and unveiling of new high-tech futuristic new electronic table games that feature real dice and real playing cards. These new electronic table games are roulette, craps, baccarat and now sic bo. Some promotions for August are: Jackpot Jumble, where players can win up to $25,000 cash, a Hawaii Trip, one million Empire Points and more.

Empire Club members can visit a promotion booth on Mondays and Thursdays in August to receive their two free Jackpot Jumbles. The comedy nights will be on August 8 and 22 in the Good Time Room located on the third floor. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the start at 8 p.m. Empire Club Members pay $5, non members pay $15 and Elite Card members are free. All patrons receive one free drink ticket. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Empire Club members will get a free NY Post newspaper, coffee and pastry, while supplies last.

On Thursday August 9 from 12-3 p.m. in the Good Time Room, “Price is Right” auditions are being held, contestants are being sought from the tri-state area.

From August 14-18 Empire City will be having its IGT $100,000 Wheel of Fortunate Slot Tournament.  Lucky Empire Club members who earned a seat will be getting ready to try their luck in this slot tournament More than 1,200 people will participate in this event.

Empire City also features regular music and comedy shows in its main lounge area, and has a whole host of special events you can check out at http://www.empirecitycasino.com/calendar.

Empire City, is located at Yonkers Raceway, but its name actually predates the racetrack. The original racetrack founded at the site way back in 1899 was called Empire City Race Track. The site still hosts regular racing and major stakes on its one-half-mile standardbred harness racing dirt track. Notably, the famed horse Seabiscuit raced at Yonkers on many occasions in the 1930s.

 

Change in State Constitution May Allow Empire City to Build Hotel and Resort in Yonkers

The questions that everyone wants to know answers to is will Empire City have “live” table games and will Empire City build a hotel  and resort?

The answer lies with state lawmakers. The Rooney family has been courting Albany for legislation in their favor. Their sales pitch is twofold- it is a good draw for New York to have full table casino and hotel/resort in Yonkers, and building gaming facilities in the state will keep money from leaving the state.

On the other side of the fence, anti-gambling groups warn that encouraging gambling “shrinks the middle class.” Director of Empire Casino Public Affairs Taryn Duffy says gaming should be looked at as entertainment and most casino customers are not gambling addicts, by any means.

The New York State Constitution currently prohibits full gaming except on Indian reserves, but the legislature took steps to change that in 2012. To change the Constitution legislation must pass in successive legislative sessions and then be put up for referendum. The soonest the law may go to a public referendum is Election Day 2013.

Legislators are limiting full gaming rights to only seven casinos, and Yonkers is making their case to be one of the seven.

“The state legislature took the first step towards changing the constitution to allow up to seven full gaming licenses,” Duffy explained. “New Yorkers want the gaming revenue and jobs that we lose to the surrounding states that have live table gaming, to stay in New York so we’re confident the constitutional amendment will pass and that Empire City Casino can make a strong argument to support us receiving one of those licenses.”

“In less than six years, Empire City Casino has generated $1.5 Billion for our state schools and another $500 Million for local and state government, the racing industry and agriculture. Imagine what we could accomplish for New Yorkers if we have the ability to complete on a level playing field with our neighboring states!  If Empire City Casino were to receive a full gaming license, we are certainly prepared to make the necessary investments to develop a full-scale entertainment destination, and that would likely include a hotel & spa, multi-use sports & entertainment venue, retail space, a parking garage and more.”