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Struggling to compete, Vernon Downs racino prepares for closure

Vernon Downs Racing Casino and Hotel
The Vernon Downs racino may be shutting down later this year due to financial losses from increased competition.

The owner of Vernon Downs Jeff Gural says without intervention from state lawmakers, his business will close.

Gural says the racino and hotel loses about $5,000 every day. That's why he plans to start shutting down the facility, first the casino in September and then the racetrack in November.

Gural says the simple solution to the problem is a lower tax rate. The state senate has passed a bill that does just that. It would lower the video gaming machine tax from 59 percent to 45 percent. Gural says it could save Vernon Downs about $3 million a year, but it's stalled in the Assembly. 

"I really can’t imagine why anybody wouldn't think this is a good deal for the state," Gural said. "It’s a great deal. Plus, we pay roughly $2 million a year in local taxes. This would be catastrophic if they don’t pass this legislation."

The net profits for Vernon Downs, which employs about 300 full-time and part-time people, during the first four months of this year are down by $1.6 million.

Gural blames a saturated gambling market, noting that Vernon Downs competes with Turning Stone casino in Verona, Finger Lakes Gaming racino in Farmington, the new del Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County and Yellow Brick Road Casino in Madison County. State lawmakers reduced the Finger Lakes gaming facility's tax rate last year. 

The New York state legislature is scheduled to adjourn its 2017 session next week.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.