NY Bails Out Vernon Downs (Again); Animal Cruelty to Continue

The headline from the June 28 edition of The Legislative Gazette says it all: “Assembly and Senate pass bill to give Vernon Downs a five-year tax break, averts shutdown.” The article goes on to explain that the measure will save the track an estimated $4 million per year. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law: “To be clear, I am 100 percent supportive of Vernon Downs and stand ready to sign a bill that will protect people’s jobs and ensure the viability of the facility.”

Some background: Vernon Downs, like all of the other six harness tracks in the Empire State, has been on life support – racino slots – for over a decade now. Simply put, the harness tracks (and Aqueduct and Finger Lakes) were unable to compete with casinos and lotteries. Revenue was plummeting. So they petitioned government for relief – enter Video Lottery Terminals, taxpayer-provided subsidies for the racing industry. Corporate welfare.

In the case of Vernon, the state’s largesse wasn’t enough and closure, apparently, was imminent (September). True to form, the racing people cried about lost jobs (300, they say), and politicians would rather contract pink eye than be portrayed as insensitive on a jobs issue. So instead of allowing the free market to function as intended – which it has been here: “part-owner Gary Greenberg says customers are going to other gaming establishments such as Turning Stone, Rivers and Del Lago casinos” – we have a (further) bailout. Now to be clear, there may indeed be businesses or industries that are too big to fail, but a rinky-dink harness track in western NY is most definitely not one of them. Bottom line, this is America, capitalism; it’s not within your charter, Governor Cuomo, to “protect jobs” that time has passed by or to “ensure the viability of [a] facility” that on its own is inviable.

In the meantime, while those (supposed) 300 jobs are being “saved,” horses will continue to be enslaved, exploited, abused, and, yes, sometimes killed (the Gaming Commission reports 10 dead at Vernon since 2009, though surely there have been more). But that, of course, is not the end of it. For those who do make it off the track alive, it’s often just another form of merciless servitude that awaits (Amish farm, e.g.); worse still, many (most?) of the horses now, or who will be, racing at Vernon Downs will meet brutal, violent ends at slaughterhouses north and south.

So not only are we – the taxpayers – bailing out (again) a horse track, keeping it alive when it should be (and actually once was) dead, but worse, we are subsidizing animal cruelty. For shame…

So-called “Mohawk Valley Nine” – the state legislators who spearheaded the bill – but especially one Jim Tedisco. The long-time assemblyman, now senator has crafted a reputation as an “animal advocate”; in fact, his Senate bio brags that “[he] made history by creating the first-ever NYS Animal Advocacy Day.” Apparently, however, his “advocacy” stops at dogs and cats.

Legislature at large.

Governor Cuomo (his contact form, should you be so inclined).

New York State.

(full Gazette article)


Leave a Comment

  1. This is absurd, and a devastation to horses and the activists that work so hard to save them. Please continue to share, and help educate the public about the cruelty and death that is horseracing. Then tell those 9 “lawmakers” (and the governor) the THOUSANDS of reasons why horseracing should be allowed to die on its own without tax payer bailouts. Our voices must be heard, the horses’ voices must be heard!

  2. This is outrageous!
    Cuomo also bailed out Finger Lakes with millions or they would have shut down.
    Horse racing has been used to getting bail outs for YEARS now.
    They couldn’t stand on their own years ago so they certainly can’t now, and its time to stop financing this money pit and animal cruelty.
    It’s astounding that our governments continue to neglect taxpayers money when it’s so obvious that this business is DEAD just like the racehorses.
    Woodbine, Toronto Canada received 345 MILLION PER YEAR for 12 years and it still wasn’t enough!
    They came back to the taxpayer trough again when that deal ended, and received another 100 million.


    To this day, neither our government nor the taxpayers know where the 345 million per year went.
    Please see link on this article “where did the slot money go?”
    An investigation by The Toronto Star was actually blocked, and FOIA request retracted, and denied when they tried to find an answer.

    It seems like this industry is greasing a lot of politicians palms because that’s the only reason that justifies this ongoing abuse of taxpayers money via bailouts.

    • I think the public needs to be educated about this subsidy. Most are totally unaware that casino tax money funds horseracing. Educate hand in hand the subsidy with the abuse, most tax payers would readily vote against subsidizing horse racing. They would much rather have that money working for them as taxpayers. A facebook page or petition…stop subsidizing horseracing…maybe?

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