By Guy Cheli
Did you know the Empire City Casino dates way back to 1899? Starting as the Empire City Trotting Club, it opened as a 97-acre standardbred harness racing track. In the early days the venue held a variety of special events including auto races. In 1902 Barney Oldfield set the one- mile record in his Ford 999 at a shade under one minute. Truly amazing at the time. In 1907 the raceway changed to thoroughbred flat horse racing. By the 1920s and 1930s Empire City was hosting a list of important feature races. In 1936 the world famous Seabiscuit won the Scarsdale Handicap. The track reverted back to the trotters in 1942. In 1950 the Algam Corporation acquired the track and it became the Yonkers Raceway. At the absolute height of its popularity during the fifties and early sixties the track would draw huge crowds, sometimes as many as 50,000. Everyone referred to it simply as “The Track.” Parking lots lined Yonkers Avenue and Central Avenue. Local businesses boomed. Eventually lifestyles changed and people had other entertainment options causing attendance to decline.
The Rooney family, owners of the Pittsburg Steelers bought the track in 1972 and maintained a quality venue with harness racing until October 2006 when the Empire Casino at Yonkers Raceway opened. By 2012 the casino was the most successful casino and racing venue in the state of New York. On May 29, 2018 MGM Resorts International, purchased Empire City Casino adding to its list of worldwide casinos and hotels. Today, Empire City features 5,200 electronic table games and slots, various dining options, and live and simulcast horse racing. Just 15 miles from Times Square, MGM expects to host 8 Million visitors annually.