Vernon Downs Plans to be First With Video Gaming

Ground was broken Aug. 13 on the "Miracle Isle" gaming facility at Vernon Downs, which intends to become the first New York racetrack to have video lottery terminals in operation.

Vernon Downs, located between Syracuse and Utica in central upstate New York, hopes to open its VLT parlor Nov. 1. Saratoga Raceway is looking at a Dec. 31 opening for its VLT facility. Both are Standardbred tracks.

Conducted in front of the construction site, which is located between the Vernon Downs grandstand and the company-owned and -operated Vernon Country Suites hotel, the ceremony featured a blessing of the site by Hawaiian native Kahu Kordell Kekoa, a chaplain with the Kamehameha schools in Honolulu. He sprinkled water on the site.

Hawaiian native and Mid-State Raceway president Hoolae Paoa served as master of ceremonies for the function, which featured brief speeches by several area politicians, industry leaders, and other dignitaries. Vernon Downs for years has been called the "Home of the Miracle Mile," thus the name of the VLT parlor.

"We're pleased and proud of the fact that Vernon Downs will be the first non-Native American operated gaming facility in New York state," Paoa said. "We feel the video gaming machines will be a very positive and exciting addition to our company, and we're optimistic that they will issue in a new area of prosperity for everyone associated with Mid-State Raceway."

The groundbreaking ceremony followed the Polynesian theme that has been established for the 34,500-square-foot Miracle Isle facility. The track is projecting gross revenues of more than $80 million from 1,100 machines at the outset.

New York law provides for approximately 61% of revenue from the machines to go for New York educational needs and 10% to the state Lottery Division. The remaining 29% will be shared by the track, horsemen, and the state's breeding industry.

About 90% of the money that goes into the VLTs will be returned the public.

Two New York Thoroughbred tracks -- Aqueduct and Finger Lakes -- are in line for VLTs as well.