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Harness racing returning to Vernon Downs Casino Hotel from Friday

Following a two-week delay, harness racing will reportedly return to upstate New York’s Vernon Downs Casino Hotel from Friday with an expectation that the state will be providing the Oneida County racetrack with some form of tax relief.

According to a report from Syracuse-based television broadcaster WSTM-TV, last month saw owner American Racing And Entertainment postpone the traditional April 21 start of racing at the facility just outside the town of Vernon due to heavy competition from a trio of recently-opened area casinos. The firm’s Jeff Gural had earlier revealed that Vernon Downs Casino Hotel was losing an average of $150,000 every month and blamed the shortfalls on the impact of the federally-recognized Oneida Indian Nation’s Yellow Brick Road Casino, which began operations only 20 miles away in the village of Chittenango in June of 2015, as well as the February inaugurations of the nearby Rivers Casino And Resort Schenectady and the Del Lago Resort Casino.

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However, Gural reportedly met with members of the New York State Racing And Wagering Board, local New York State Senator Joseph Griffo and representatives of New York governor Andrew Cuomo on April 26 to argue for tax relief in order to continue Vernon Downs Casino Hotel’s harness racing calendar and the 300 jobs associated with the activity.

“We were extremely disappointed to postpone the opening day of racing at Vernon Downs [Casino Hotel],” Gural told WSTM-TV. “However, we feel very optimistic that necessary tax relief will come our way. Since re-opening Vernon [Downs Casino Hotel] as a racino in 2006, we have given close to $150 million to the state for education, yet Vernon Downs [Casino Hotel] 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 [and we know this] will benefit the region as well as the state of New York.”

Gural reportedly explained that the first harness race of the new season is due to take place at Vernon Downs Casino Hotel on May 5 from 6:45pm followed by a double-header on Saturday either side of the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, which is to be simulcast at the track.