The NYSRWB has granted Vernon Downs a license to operate in the month of April and not for their whole meet. The reason a license for the whole meet has not been issued is there has been no contract reached between Vernon Downs and the HHACNY. If it was not for the fact contracts are usually for more than one year, a contract dispute between Vernon Downs and management could be considered a sign of spring; such as the swallows returning to Capistrano.
Why has no contract been reached? We'll let Jeff Gural explain it himself: I have a very bad relationship with the HHACNY. I dislike the people who run it and I dislike the attorney who represents them. So that’s probably the hold up.
Of course, we know who the lawyer is that represents the horsemen. SOA of NY President, Joe Faraldo. To say these two get along would be like saying the Hatfields and McCoys were the best of buddies. Gural further goes on to say: “I just feel that their interest and my interest are not aligned. My interest is in promoting harness racing and trying to come up with a product that would be good for our customers and I think their interest is in promoting themselves.”
That is an understatement. Too diametrically opposed views of how racing should be conducted can not be found. For example, last year the horsemen at Tioga agreed to a reduction in the takeout rate. Vernon horsemen refused, as if what little is bet on their racing would actually impact their purse account more than $50 a race if people stopped wagering on Vernon. Gural recognizes the business of racing is broken and is attempting to fix it. Faraldo appears to believe as long as there is slot money available, why should anyone change the way things are done. Of course, by the time the slot revenue is gone; it will be too late to change course.
I don't know the specifics of the labor dispute, but what I do know is the horsemen's association has had a problem with Gural since he bought the track out of bankruptcy. I guess the horsemen appreciated the good old days when the track was shuttered and no one was racing..
If no contract is reached by April 27, the NYSRWB may allow racing to continue for another month or they may pull the license to conduct a meet, shuttering the track; perhaps forever. Of course, horsemen would not be the only one hurt. With no racing at Vernon Downs, the slot machines would eventually go silent or the New York State Lottery would take over operation of the machines.
Will long time peace ever be reached at Vernon Downs? Probably not. So when looking for signs of spring next year, we just need to see if labor peace has been reached at Vernon Downs.