Owner Jeff Gural is ‘extremely disappointed’, but remains hopeful
Vernon, N.Y. – June 22, 2017 – Jeff Gural, Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, announced today that the New York State Assembly has failed to take action on a bill that would provide tax relief for Vernon Downs before the end of the legislative session.
The New York State Senate, with the leadership of Senators Joseph Griffo and John J. Bonacic, passed legislation providing tax relief for Vernon Downs earlier this month. Following the Senate passage of this critically important legislation, the obligation fell to the Assembly to pass the bill. The legislative session came to a close Wednesday with no agreement between the Assembly and Senate, much to the dissatisfaction of Gural.
“I am extremely disappointed that the New York State Assembly failed to come to a compromise with the Senate to pass a bill that would guarantee the survival and future of Vernon Downs,” Gural said. “While the revised bill passed by the Senate provided us with less tax relief than we had originally asked for, it was a step in the right direction as I certainly do not want to see 300 people lose their jobs.”
Significant financial pressures remain due to the fact that Vernon has a higher tax rate than any of its competitors. Moreover, competing casinos have taken revenue from the property, and caused Vernon Downs to be losing on average about $170,000 per month since November. Mr. Gural has been working with the Governor’s office and the Legislative Leadership in Albany for months in order to find ways to reduce any losses and protect Vernon Downs. The tax relief legislation requested from New York State would achieve that goal, and allow Vernon Downs to continue to employ approximately 300 local union workers, preserve horse racing jobs and still allow approximately eleven million dollars to go to education.
Gural, who has the backing of the Assembly’s Anthony Brindisi, Donna Lupardo and William McGee, is grateful for the lawmakers who worked tirelessly to reach a compromise. Still, Gural said they only managed to pass a watered-down version of the bill that was originally proposed. However, Gural says the Senate’s revised bill would only be in place two years, and would provide enough relief for Vernon Downs to stay open in the meantime. This would allow lawmakers to revisit the issue down the road, when Vernon Downs knows the true financial impact of increased competition from the addition of three regional casinos with table games.
Despite this disappointment, Gural said he is still hopeful for the passing of this legislation and the future of Vernon Downs.
“We remain confident that the Assembly will realize the importance of keeping Vernon open,” Gural said. “The closure of Vernon Downs would cost hundreds of hard working local employees their jobs, deprive the surrounding community millions of dollars in tax revenue and take away an entertainment destination that is enjoyed by the entire region. I personally asked the Speaker last year about the importance of helping upstate NY rebuild and he made it clear he understood the problems people face in these depressed areas of upstate NY. We continue to believe that our lawmakers in Albany will recognize our struggle and do what they can to help us continue our investment in this region. However, the longer Vernon Downs remains open without resolve, the more money we’re losing, and the closer we are to closing our doors.”
Gural added that racing was cancelled for Thursday evening due to the fact that there weren’t enough horses set to race. He said the cancellation had nothing to do with this legislative setback.
In addition to its video lottery terminals, Vernon Downs offers live harness racing, concerts and other entertainment. Jeff Gural owns Vernon Downs in Vernon, NY and Tioga Downs in Nichols, NY. In the last decade, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have created more than 1,000 family-sustaining jobs. For more information on Vernon Downs, please visit www.vernondowns.com.