Tim Rooney (left), President and CEO of Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, presents Christmas gifts for the less fortunate to Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, at the casino’s Annual Christmas Spirit Toy and Coat Drive. During their years of ownership at Empire City the Rooneys have been prominent in area charitable and community causes.
By Irish Echo Staff
The Rooneys, long one of Irish America’s most prominent business and sporting families, are relinquishing the reins at Yonkers Raceway.
And they will no longer be hedging their bets with the gambling business in Yonkers, which is about to play host to a company known for Vegas glitz.
Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway announced a deal at the beginning of this week to sell to MGM Resorts for $850 million, thus ending the 46-year ownership by the Rooney family and, according to a report in LOHUD.com, giving the casino giant a major gambling hall just 15 miles from Times Square.
MGM announced Monday morning it would purchase the iconic harness track and the casino with 5,222 video-lottery terminals from the Rooneys, who have owned the facility since 1972, the report stated.
It added that the Rooney family has been considering a sale of Empire City and Yonkers Raceway for years and announced in November that it had hired J.P. Morgan to help consider either a sale or new partnership.
The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals.
The casino and raceway have been steered along their respective business paths by Tim Rooney, a former grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a son of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, and brother of the late Dan Rooney, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland between 2009 and 2012.
According to LOHUD, Yonkers Raceway opened in 1899, and the video-lottery terminals were added in 2006 after New York passed a law in 2001 to let its racetracks add the slot-machine-like devices.
“Over the past year, there has been discussions about possibly moving the harness track to Belmont Park on Long Island to open up the Yonkers facility to further development, such as a hotel, retail and housing. But neither MGM nor Yonkers mentioned any plans to move the track.”
Tim Rooney led the New York parade in 2006.
The Echo reported on his inauguration: “…there is a serious side to the anointing of a grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“The office holder is, after all, a keeper of Irish America’s flame for his or her twelve months in office.
“So Rooney, whose acceptance speech was the very essence of brevity, was greeted with nothing but thunderous applause after he accepted the honor of being leader of the biggest celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the world.
“His acceptance speech came, crucially, at the end of 90 minutes of speeches, musical interludes and introductions so its restrained length won immediate praise from parade committee vice-chairman, Dr. John Lahey, who smiled as he reminded veterans in the room of previous installation nights of an acceptance speech by a grand marshal some years ago.
"That one weighed in at a solid hour. Rooney’s was solid too. It was merely the hour that was absent."
At that gathering, then parade chairman John Dunleavy had introduced Rooney “as a husband and father, a businessman and owner of Yonkers Raceway, a venue the new grand marshal had frequently opened for charitable functions and fundraisers."
MGM, it would readily appear, will have a tough act to follow.