Bankruptcy Filing Keeps New York Track's Hopes Alive

The owner of a long-shuttered New York racetrack slated to reopen to tap into the state's video lottery terminal program has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The filing for Tioga Park, located west of Binghamton, came just days before a local bank was scheduled to auction the property Jan. 9 to collect money it says the track's owners owe on mortgages for the property.

Despite the bankruptcy filing, the head of a Canadian company with an option to purchase the track said he believes the track will still be his and that Standardbred racing, a struggling industry in the state, will be offered by Aug. 3.

"We're going ahead,'' said John Simmonds, a longtime breeder and owner of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds who controls the Ontario-based TrackPower Inc. With current New York law permitting the licensing of one more track in the state, TrackPower jumped last year at the chance to reopen Tioga Park. The company believes the track, despite its relative isolation from major population centers, can be a financial boon with VLTs.

The track's owner could not be reached for comment.

Simmonds said the Chapter 11 filing was taken to block the bank from selling the track and to give him and the present owners time to reorganize the facility's finances. "At the end of the day, I can't tell you how it's going to shake out, but it's our intention to own Tioga Park," he said.

Simmonds said his company has begun the work in Albany to get the necessary licenses to operate the track, which he said will offer afternoon racing three days a week. Another hurdle will be to amend the state's VLT law to include Tioga Park as one of the facilities at which the devices can be located.

Tracks in New York were supposed to have been operating VLTs by now. But track owners claim the revenue-sharing provisions of the law make it a money-loser for them. They have been lobbying the state to steer to the racetracks more of the revenue now earmarked for the state.

Simmonds said he believes Tioga Park could keep 1,000 to 1,500 VLTs busy. And he broke with others in New York racing who have been adamant that they can't proceed with VLTs until the revenue-sharing dispute is resolved.