Jeff Gural, principal owner of Vernon Downs, announced today (February 7) that the race track and video gaming facility at Vernon Downs will close at 1:00 a.m. on Monday, February 11, 2008.
This action is expected to be temporary and is a result of the failure of the Racing and Wagering Committee of the State Assembly to bring Bill A09821 out of committee for a vote on the floor.
“The tax-relief legislation that was passed by the State Senate with the support of the Governor in June of 2007 was not passed by the Assembly at that time because of lingering questions about the wording of the bill,” said Gural.
“After discussions with Assemblyman, Gary Pretlow, Chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee during last summer’s recess, we came to an agreement that the legislation would be passed in a special summer session or in the fall session. Last October, the Senate, again, was the only body that passed the newly worded legislation. The assembly balked.”
In spite of the non-passage of the legislation in October, Gural was persuaded by key legislators to stay open.
This meant that the ownership group of Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs would continue to pump a half million dollars per month into each property to keep them afloat with hopes that compromise legislation could be worked out.
However, Gural stressed at that time that Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs would close without receiving the tax reducing legislation soon.
On January 7th of this year, Gural, Assemblyman Pretlow, and Joe Faraldo, lawyer for the Vernon Downs horseman’s group, Harness Horse Association of CNY, met in Albany and reached a compromise deal that appeared to offer all racinos the benefits they required, including giving 8.75% of video gaming revenues to the horseman’s groups at each racino.
We were waiting for the State legislature to go back into session in the new year and expected them to vote on the rewritten bill,” said Gural.
“However, once again, the rewritten legislation agreed to at that meeting remained mired in the Assembly committee. Apparently, a few of the healthier tracks, including Yonkers Raceway, now want even more money from the State education fund,” Gural continued.
According to Gural, Yonkers was going to receive $34 million in the most recent legislation but they upped the ante last month to $50 million. These continuing delays and “stall tactics” by competing racinos who seem interested in lining their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense have prevented the legislation from being passed.
This has finally forced Jeff Gural and the ownership group to temporarily close Vernon Downs on Monday.
Their other property, Tioga Downs in Nichols, New York, will most likely close by the end of the month if favorable legislation is not passed.
“We have been in an untenable financial position for a long time,” said Gural. “But now we’re forced to temporarily close Vernon Downs to get the legislature to focus on the fact that the original Lottery business model for these racinos is broken and it’s time to fix it,” Gural continued.