NY Board Sinks Vernon Downs Race License

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The state Racing and Wagering Board refused to renew the operating license for the Vernon Downs harness track on Friday.

The decision not only cancels a 120-day racing season scheduled to begin April 3, it also halted -- at least temporarily -- a $3.6 million casino featuring video lottery terminals.

Track officials say the machines could bring in $80 million a year, but state law prohibits a casino from operating unless the track has a license to race horses.

The board cited continuing financial losses by the owner of the track, Mid-State Raceway Inc., in making its unanimous decision. The company recently borrowed $23 million, only $14 million of which went to capital improvements at the track. Of the rest, $7 million covered operating losses from 2003, board officials said.

``I didn't see much investment of anything,'' Racing and Wagering Board chairman Michael Hoblock said. ``We have an applicant, on its face, that is insolvent. I think for the betterment of the industry, we need to move ahead'' to consider another licensee to run the track.

The board also said it had also lost confidence in assertions made by Mid-State that the track would be financially viable and that management would make needed improvements.

The board urged the 500-plus shareholders of the publicly held Mid-State to seek new managers for the company. Mid-State is controlled by Shawn Scott of Las Vegas.

``The New York State Racing and Wagering Board's decision is ludicrous,'' David Wilson, vice president of racing and acting chief executive officer of Vernon Downs, said in a statement. ``We are not only disappointed, but also frustrated with the way this has been handled by the board.''

The board still hasn't decided whether the track's president, Hoolae Paoa, can keep his job. Paoa earlier won a conditional license to run the track.

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