Vernon Downs will defy a state board by cancelling its last four racing days of this season. The racino – a horse racetrack with a casino – will not conduct racing in the next two weekends, despite its cancellation request being denied by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Tuesday.
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VERNON - Vernon Downs will defy a state board by cancelling its last four racing days of this season.
The racino – a horse racetrack with a casino – will not conduct racing in the next two weekends, despite its cancellation request being denied by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Tuesday.
Vernon Downs’ cancellation of the racing days is a money-saving measure, because the racino is losing $20,000 a day and has lost $7 million this year, said Jeffrey Gural, chairman of American Racing and Entertainment LLC, the entity that bought Vernon Downs out of bankruptcy in 2006.
Last week, Vernon Downs requested that the board approve its cancelling of horseracing for Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 10, which would bring its total number of cancelled racing days to 12 in the current racing season.
Board chairman Daniel Hogan, who has the authority to make such cancellation decisions without the other two board members, denied Vernon Downs’ request Tuesday, according to Daniel Toomey, spokesman for the board.
“Once a license is approved by this board, tracks are required to put on live racing for all of their requested race days,” Toomey said.
While the board has the authority to issue fines and license suspensions or revocations when racetracks violate the conditions of their licenses, the severity of the penalties is determined on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“No action has been taken against Vernon Downs as the board continues to monitor the situation,” Toomey said in an e-mail.
There is currently a $300,000 shortfall in Vernon Downs’ purse account — the money paid for the first five winning horses in each race — said Gural, who said that he has already loaned $400,000 of his own money to the account.
Cancelling the four days will contribute $200,000 to that account for racing in the spring, he said.
“Unless the board wants to send me money, we don’t have money in the purse account,” Gural said.
Underfunded purses are not uncommon, said Rick Papa, president of the Harness Horse Association of Central New York, which represents 500 horsemen at Vernon Downs.
Citing underfunded purses at Yonkers Raceway and Tioga Downs — Vernon Downs’ sister facility — as examples, Papa said that Gural is just cancelling the four racing days out of spite.
“It’s because his legislation didn’t (pass) and he’s just blaming the horsemen and he’s just being vindictive,” Papa said.
Gural is optimistic that the state legislature will have passed legislation by spring that will allow the state’s eight racinos to keep a higher percentage of their revenue from video lottery terminals.
The state Senate approved a bill in June, but the state Assembly delayed its vote last week in order to address several horsemen’s groups concerns, according to Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson.
The horsemen want their share of video lottery revenue to be specified in state law, as it was in 2001.
The horsemen would like those percentages to range from 7.5 percent to 10 percent over a 10-year period. Vernon Downs’ horsemen currently receive 8.25 percent of the racino’s video lottery terminal revenue.
Gural is alleging that horsemen’s greed is responsible for the delay in the legislation passing but the horsemen counter that they just want their interests protected by law.
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