Empire City Casino shutters for as many as 14 days, others in NY stay open amid coronavirus

Saturday 14th March 2020

ALBANY -- Empire City Casino in Yonkers, one of the state's largest gambling facilities, closed temporarily Saturday while other casinos in New York appear to be staying open -- but with new precautionary measures.

Empire City, which has the second biggest gaming floor in New York and one of the largest in the nation, announced on its website that it shuttered its nearly 4,700 video-lottery terminals at 6 a.m. and will reopen the sprawling facility within 14 days.

The casino is Yonkers' largest private employer with 1,200 workers, and it brought in $52 million in revenue last month.

On Tuesday, the casino announced that a New Jersey man, John Brennan, who worked at Yonkers Raceway on the property, died from coronavirus. The harness track has also closed.

"The health and safety of our customers and employees come first," the MGM-owned facility said on its website.

"While it was a difficult decision, Empire City Casino will suspend operations and temporarily close as of 6:00 a.m. March 14th. We anticipate reopening within 14 days. We look forward to welcoming you back soon and thank you for your loyalty."

How casinos in New York are responding to coronavirus

Other casinos in New York said they would stay open, but are taking additional safety measures and follow guidance issued by the state Gaming Commission on Friday evening.

The new rules are in line with a ban Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Thursday that prohibits any gathering of more than 500 people and cuts anything below 500 in half.

The Gaming Commission is also requiring casinos to disable consecutively placed machines to give space between gamblers and limit the number of patrons at any given table game "to provide at least one empty chair or gaming position between patrons."

"Attendance at the gaming portion of your facility is required to be limited to 500 or less patrons at any given time, or to the level of machines that have remained activated, whichever is less," the Gaming Commission wrote.

The measure applies to all the state's video-lottery terminal facilities and private casinos, but it does not apply to the seven Native American casinos -- which operate under their own agreements with the state.

Still, the Gaming Commission said it is encouraging the Native American casinos to take the same precautions.

"We have confidence that the Tribes and Nations will take the measures that are appropriate for them and to protect their workers and their patrons," the commission said.

Casinos offer messages to customers about coronavirus

The commission's guidance said it would consider requests to exceed the 500 patron limit "when they demonstrate an ability to segment their facility into unique gathering areas wherein capacity and access can be controlled, and patron social distancing can be maintained."

Casinos in New York also posted notices on their websites that tell customers of the steps they are taking to protect against the coronovirus.

"There is no greater priority for Resorts World than the health and safety of our guests and team members, particularly in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19)," Resorts World Catskills said on its website.

"We want you to have confidence and peace of mind that you are in a safe environment every time you play and stay at any of our resorts,"

Del Lago in the Finger Lakes wrote, "With the increased coverage and attention on the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), our customers and team members have been on our minds.

"At del Lago Resort & Casino, your safety is a top priority for us, and we want to let you know what we are doing to protect your health and safety when you visit us as our guest."

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