VERNON, N.Y. – With Vernon Downs casino still closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, owner Jeff Gural says there isn’t enough purse money to keep the racetracks open.
The tracks were allowed to operate during the pandemic, without fans at the races, but the casino has not been able to open under New York state restrictions.
Without money coming from the casinos, Gural says Vernon’s track, as well as the one at Tioga Downs in Nichols, will close mid-September.
“The horse racing is going to be decimated, because the purses for horse racing come from the slot machines,” he said. “So, there is no purse money. We've used it up. So, we are going to close up at Vernon at Tioga.”
The track at Vernon Downs was originally supposed to remain open until November.
Without any clear timeline from the state on reopening casinos, Gural had to send layoff notices to 300 Vernon Downs employees in July under the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
“I have reached out to the governor…now that people aren’t getting the $600…I said, ‘Listen you got to tell me what the plan is, so I should tell my employees whether they should hang in there, or look for another job,’” said Gural.
WARN notifications alert employees of mass layoffs, or potential layoffs, up to 90 days ahead of time, to give them an opportunity to find new jobs or seek new job training.
According to the WARN notice, the layoffs would take effect in September if Vernon Downs was not able to reopen by then.