GM Northfield Park had its ceremonial grand opening last Tuesday in Ohio. MGM Properties in July paid $1 billion for the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park and then on April 1 rebranded the site now being operated by the affiliated MGM Resorts International.
Northfield Park is in northern Summit County, between Cleveland and Akron. “I think there is an opportunity for growth,” said Chris Kelley, the former MGM Grand Detroit executive named earlier as the first president of MGM Northfield Park, in a statement quoted by Cleveland.com.
Decisions on specific plans have not yet been made. He said Tuesday that a hotel at Northfield Park is a possibility since there is room for it on the existing property, and that decisions will be made later on what improvements to make to the harness track that is also part of the complex, in addition to changes already made on the gaming floor.
MGM operates just one other horse track, Kelley said, that being Yonkers Raceway in New York acquired as a part of MGM’s recent $850 million purchase of the Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway.
Northfield Park has long led all Ohio casino and racing operations. Yet MGM’s first entry into Ohio raises the possibility of growth in the Cleveland/Akron market, which last year totaled $588.2 million in slots and table gambling revenue, combining the totals for the Hard Rock Rocksino ($255.9 million), JACK Thistledown Racino ($127.4 million) and JACK Casino Cleveland ($204.9).
The three casinos in the larger Detroit area took in $1.44 billion last year - $619.2 million at MGM Grand Detroit, $489.7 million at Motor City and $335.2 million at Greektown. Plus there is competition in Detroit from across the river in Windsor, Ontario.
Two Pittsburgh-area facilities combined to top $600 million a year ago. The Rivers Casino reported $357.4 million, with the the Meadows Racetrack and Casino 25 miles away adding another $246.9 million, through both table games and slots, the state reported.
MGM Northfield Park, under regulation by the Ohio Lottery Commission, is not permitted to offer the range of gambling options available at other MGM’s resorts, or by casinos operated by other companies in Ohio. The lottery limits the options at the state’s seven racinos to slots games of chance, prohibiting both table games and skill-based slots such as poker and blackjack available at Ohio’s four casinos.
And Ohio lawmakers to date have not legalized sports gambling, such as that now offered in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Gov. Mike DeWine has said he expects the state to do so and sports wagering proposals have been introduced in the Statehouse.
“I would love to see growth in all channels,” Kelley said. “But I also realize that it is a decision for the lawmakers and regulators.”
The 110-acre Northfield Park racino complex has 2,300 slot machines. It first opened in 1934 as Sportsman’s Park, an auto track before harness racing began on the site in 1957. In 2013, the Hard Rock Rocksino opened on the site, following the Ohio Lottery’s expansion into slots machine’s at Ohio’s tracks.
The main changes made to date by MGM include a rebranding of the 1,900-seat concert hall now known as Center Stage and new names and themes for various restaurants, though one holdover is Kosar’s Wood-Fired Grill; marketing throughout for MGM’s M life Rewards program, with tie-ins to MGM’s dozens of properties under various names such as MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, Delano and Luxor; MGM logos throughout and the company’s familiar lion statue at the entrance.
“The month of April is coming in like a lion. Welcome to MGM Northfield Park,” Kelley told a crowd of executives, local public officials, employees and others in referencing the hand-sculpted 7-foot, 350-pound Leo the Lion statue.
The MGM Resorts now has 29 hotel and gaming properties, expanding this year with the MGM Northfield Park and the Empire City Casino after opening in 2018 MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, MGM COTAI in Macau, and the first Bellagio-branded hotel in Shanghai.
The 950 employees at Northfield Park are part of 82,000 worldwide for the company. MGM Resorts was ranked as the world’s second largest casino company in 2017, based on revenue totals compiled by statista.com.