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Vernon Downs to open 64th season of live harness racing

1 May 2017

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Jeff Gural, Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, announced today that he has decided to open the 2017 racing season next Friday, 5 May 2017, following a productive meeting in Albany on Wednesday. New York State Senator Joseph Griffo, representing the 47th District, New York State Senator John Bonacic, Chair of the Senate Racing Gaming and Wagering Committee, New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, Chair of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, and Beth Garvey, top counsel to the Senate Republicans, were among the top political officials in attendance for Wednesday's meeting in Albany. In addition, Mr. Gural met on Thursday with Jamie Rubin on the Governor's staff, who also seemed to understand the issues and the importance to the community of keeping Vernon Downs open.

Two weeks ago, Jeff Gural announced that Vernon Downs Casino & Hotel would be delaying the opening day of racing amid significant financial losses due to the added competition from Yellow Brick Road Casino, del Lago Resort & Casino and Rivers. Final preparations were underway at Vernon Downs to open the 64th season of live harness racing, which was set for Friday, 21 April. However, increased competition from the addition of these three casinos with table games has taken revenue away from the property and caused Vernon to be losing on average about $150,000 per month since November. Jeff Gural indicated that tax relief requested from New York State is necessary and would still allow Vernon to continue to employ approximately 300 local workers, preserve horse racing jobs and still allow approximately ten million dollars to go to education.

"We were extremely disappointed to postpone the opening day of racing at Vernon Downs. However, we feel very optimistic that necessary tax relief will come our way. Recognizing the hardship placed on the horsemen, Mr. Gural has decided to begin the season next Friday, 5 May 2017. I would like to thank Senator Griffo, Senator Bonacic, Assemblyman Pretlow and Ms. Garvey for their productive discussion at Wednesday's meeting in Albany. Since reopening Vernon as a racino in 2006, we have given close to $150 million to the State for education, yet Vernon Downs has the highest tax rate of its competitors. We look forward to getting this rectified expeditiously, which is why we decided to open the new racing season next week, which we know will benefit the region as well as the State of New York."

The racino is hopeful that local officials will continue to weigh in and convince the State legislature to act quickly to help save the hundreds of jobs currently at risk at Vernon Downs. The horsemen also agree to support legislation that would lower the tax rate, which would enable Vernon to have a solid long term future.

Final preparations are underway at Vernon Downs to open the 64th season of live harness racing on Friday, 5 May.

Other highlights of opening night include a race date t-shirt and wall calendar giveaway, while supplies last, plus a spectacular fireworks display following the evening's final race.

Join us Saturday, 6 May to watch and wager the Kentucky Derby. Derby post time is scheduled for 6:46 p.m. Live racing will take place with a doubleheader with post times at 2:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., the Derby hat contest and our Food Truck Rodeo Festival from 2 p.m.-8 p.m. on the apron.

On the track, Vernon Downs will host live racing Thursday through Saturday, with a few Sunday and usual holiday Monday matinee races planned. Several top-class stakes races including the Empire Breeders Classic, Zweig Memorial and Kindergarten Classic round out the 2017 racing calendar.

In addition to its video lottery terminals, Vernon Downs offers live harness racing, concerts and other entertainment. Jeff Gural owns Vernon Downs in Vernon, New York and Tioga Downs in Nichols, New York. 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 the website.

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