Vernon Downs to open May 5 after meeting state officials about "tax relief"

Operators have said jobs would be at-risk without a lower tax rate

VERNON (WSYR-TV) - Vernon Downs will open for live harness racing on May 5 despite recent complaints about losing money to a growing list of competitors in the casino industry in Upstate New York.

The decision was announced this weekend by Jeff Gural, Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment. He credits a "productive" meeting with several state representatives and members of legislative racing and wagering committees.

Gural wanted what he calls "tax relief" in order to keep 300 workers on the job.

The 64th season of harness racing was initially scheduled to open on April 21, but Gural opted for a delay, claiming Vernon Downs had been losing an average of roughly $150,000 a month since November.

He blames the construction of new casinos in Chittenango and Waterloo for pulling gamblers away from Vernon Downs.

A statement sent by a Vernon Downs spokesperson says operators are optimistic that "necessary tax relief will come our way" after a meeting with state officials.

They're also pushing local elected officials to pressure colleagues in the New York State legislature to move quickly in lowering the tax rate, saying jobs at the racino are "at risk".

The timing coincides with Kentucky Derby weekend. Vernon Downs will be hosting a watch and wager event for the derby on the evening of Saturday, May 6.

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