After revealing in a January Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing that it would be shutting down ‘video gaming machine operations and food and beverage service’ at Monticello Raceway in New York, the electronic gaming racino at the venue closed on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

The website posted the following message…

“Monticello Casino & Raceway will be ceasing its casino operations as of April 23, 2019, and consolidating operations with Resorts World Catskills. As we approach the upcoming union of our two properties, we want to ensure you that this will be a simple and seamless experience.”

Continuing operations:

According to the website, “Harness Racing and the simulcasting room will both continue to operate.”

News of the closing was revealed on January 22, 2019, by the racino’s owner, Empire Resorts (NYNY:NASDAQ GM), which is majority owned Kien Huat Realty Sdn Bhd of Malaysian conglomerate, Genting Group. In addition to the property located about 90 miles from New York City, the Monticello-headquartered company is also responsible for the $1.5 billion Resorts World Catskills, which opened in February 2018 and is located in New York State’s Catskill Mountains.

Focus on Catskills:

According to the company, the closure is an effort to prevent the racino from cannibalizing revenues from the more than 2,000 slots and 150 table games at its Resorts World property. The New York-headquartered company said that it plans to focus on growing the casino and hotel business that opened on February 8 last year in nearby Kiamesha Lake.

Future uncertain:

In the earlier report, Empire Resorts stated that horse racing will continue at the racino, however, no guarantees were made in either the written statement or the SEC filing regarding the long-term future of the track.

Representing the majority of Sullivan County, Assemblywoman, Aileen Gunther, expressed concern over the closure and the future of the racetrack that has been a part of the county’s history since opening on June 27, 1958.

“Right now we are going over some plans to make sure that as we wrote in the constitutional amendment that the racino was supposed to support the purses and as we go forward,” Gunther said, “I am sorry that it happened and hopefully that building will be used for something positive in the community,” as reported by the Daily Freeman.

Concern over the racetrack’s future was shared by County Legislature Chairman, Luis Alvarez, who said…

“That is part of Sullivan County and has been there forever and ever and ever and people come from all over the place for horse harness, so I am a little worried about it.”

According to the Times Herald-Record coverage in January, Alverez said that he doesn’t think horse racing has a future in the New York county.

Empire said in the January reveal that some 40 employees will stay on at the Monticello Raceway, while the casino operation’s other 160 workers can opt to take severance packages or take positions at Resorts World Catskills, which is approximately only 10 minutes away.

Revenue losses:

Both properties have reportedly been losing millions, with Empire being saved from bankruptcy in 2009 by Malaysian Chinese billionaire businessman, Lim Kok Thay, board executive and Chairman of Genting Group, while Resorts World has averaged monthly losses of between $10 million and $13 million since its opening less than a year ago, according to the Times Herald-Record.

Resorts World Catskills offers an 18-story all-suite hotel with 332 rooms, more than 10 varied bar and restaurant experiences, a spa, two indoor pools and the 27,000 sq. ft. RW Epicenter, which showcases world-class musical talent and comedians from around the country.

The year-old casino resort’s 100,000 square foot casino floor includes 150 live Las-Vegas style table games, 2,150 state-of-the-art slot machines, a 19-table poker room and a private player’s lounge and high limit salon privets. The campus has also recently expanded with the addition of a 101-room lifestyle hotel, The Alder, which features a Topgolf Swing Suite and additional food and beverage offerings.

A grain of salt:

While some remain optimistic regarding the future of the nearly 60-year-old racetrack, it wouldn’t be the first time a company had to eat its words, as evident by the statements reportedly made by Empire Resorts Executive Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Corporate Communications, Charlie Degliomini, who said at the time that in spite of the opening of the then new 1.6 million square foot, luxury five-star casino located in Thompson, the harness racing track and racino was in no danger of closing, and that all of the venue’s features will be maintained.

“We think of it as a business that will still be active and vibrant,” said Degliomini.