Scott Approved to Take Ownership of Vernon Downs

Former Delta Downs owner Shawn Scott has received approval to take over ownership of Vernon Downs in upstate New York.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board gave Scott a license week. The board had issued the Standardbred track east of Syracuse a conditional 90-day license for live harness racing and simulcasting while they investigated Scott.

The board will now allow the track to remain open throughout the rest of the year, an additional 54 days, while Scott assumes ownership. Scott offered to loan the track $8.5 million at 15% interest. The two-year loan also gives Scott's financial group a controlling interest in Mid-State Raceway, which owns the track. Vernon Downs is carrying $6 million in debt, according to racing and wagering board.

Scott, a Las Vegas developer, plans to build a $5 million casino for more than 600 video lottery machines at the track. He hopes to open it by next year. The casino is expected to create 250 new full-time jobs and, with the racetrack, attract one million visitor's annually, according to Scott.

Vernon Downs has already seen a 35% increase in attendance this year and total handle is $4.5 million, so far, up 11% over last year.

The board did make Scott's license conditional. John Baldwin, a Scott business associate, is required to get a racing license, and the track must set up a "segregated escrow account to ensure that purses are paid in light of the track's projected $1.7 million deficit from racing operations," according to track officials.

Edward J. Martin, the board's executive director, said at last week's meeting that Scott's background check included interviews with business associates, the Louisiana Racing Commission, Louisiana State Police, Nevada Gaming Commission, and New Mexico Racing Commission. He the board received numerous letters of support for Scott's application from Louisiana and residents living around Vernon Downs.

Martin said the staff has a "primary concern" about the fact that Scott's finances "are integrated with those" of Baldwin, who is a partner in several companies.
"Money flows freely between these companies without documentation or written agreements," Martin said."There is no clear segregation of expenses or income to ascertain what applies to Mr. Baldwin's entries from Mr. Scott's entities.

"Millions of dollars in 'management fees' have been channeled from entities owned by Mr. Scott to entities controlled by Mr. Baldwin. There is no written support to justify these fees. It's clear to staff, upon review of the information provided and researched, that the use and source of funds between the two (Baldwin and Scott) seem indistinguishable," he said.

Scott and others track officials are being sued by another group of investors who claim they were defrauded because they had offered to buy Vernon Downs before Scott came in.

Scott bought Delta Downs near Vinton, La. in 1999 for $10 million. He sold it for $130.1 million to Boyd Gaming last year after he was able to get voter approval for a 15,000-square-foot slots parlor.

He has proposed building a multimillion-dollar racetrack and slots parlor in Cameron Parish, La. Near the Texas border. Scott is also trying to obtain a license to open a track and slot parlor in Hobbs, N.M.