Vernon Downs Possibly on Last Legs

With the decision looming in the air surrounding a fourth casino license in New York, nobody is awaiting the decision more than Jeff Gural, owner of Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs.

As Vernon Downs prepared for its season opener last Friday, owner Jeff Gural is preparing to field questions speculating around the sustainability of a dying breed, the racetrack. Gural fully understands the importance of his casino bid for Tioga Downs, which he also operates. If Tioga gets the go ahead for a full casino license, it helps the chances of Vernon sticking around.

On the topic of Vernon Downs closing, Vernon Mayor Jerry Seymour said, “It would hurt us a lot.” Town of Vernon Supervisor Myron Thurston said, “The impact would be dramatic on all of Oneida County.” The Vernon Downs complex employs around 400 people, 200 of which are horsemen.

Earlier this month, Gural said, “I am committed to Vernon as long as things turn out OK with this new casino license,” but has not commented recently on the matter. He has also came out and said, “It would be very difficult if somebody were to get a license in Binghamton. That would probably put Vernon and Tioga out of business.”

Seymour is understandably concerned with the economic impact of no racino in his city. “We haven’t had a tax increase in 14 years in the village. We’ll get $137,000 from the state in August. If we don’t get that it would mean a 30 percent increase in taxes … probably almost 50 percent. Or we would have to seriously cut services.” Vernon is set to haul in $231,788 in VLT money this year.