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Vernon, Tioga Downs report rise in revenue in 2011

By Journal Staff


VERNON — American Racing and Entertainment ended 2011 with strong gains at its two racetrack and casino operations — Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs.

Vernon Downs, located at 4229 Stuhlman Road, generated a net-revenue increase of $1.1 million, or 2.6 percent, at its casino operations, according to a news release issued by American Racing. Casino credits played at the casino increased 14.1 percent, or $64 million, over 2010 figures. American Racing officials said in the release they attribute the increased casino business to a tax-exempt, free-play program they instituted in April.

Vernon Downs also generated an increase in its restaurant and event business, with revenue for the food and beverage department increasing 18.3 percent in 2011.

Overall traffic at the Vernon Downs complex — which includes harness racing and simulcast facilities, a 34,000-square-foot casino with more than 750 video-gaming machines, several restaurants, a pool, a fitness center, and a new multi-purpose convention center — increased 11.6 percent during the year. Company officials cite the new $8.9 million event space (marketed for weddings, receptions, and other catered events), along with its new simulcasting facility and new Mr. G’s Food and Spirits restaurant, for the increased traffic.

Vernon Downs employs about 300 people. Ursula Hardin, director of marketing at Vernon Downs, told The Business Journal, last July, as construction wrapped up on the event center, that it expected to hire about 50 new employees as the event business picked up.

Tioga Downs’ net revenue grew by 7.5 percent, or $4 million, in 2011 along with a 9.8 percent, $66.5 million, increase in casino credits played.

Revenue for the food and beverage department rose 7.7 percent, due in large part to a $5 buffet promotion Tioga Downs held in the last quarter of the year, company officials said. Sales at Tioga Downs’ gift shop soared 92.7 percent over 2010 levels.

Just as Vernon Downs was wrapping up its expansion project, Tioga Downs broke ground July 6, 2011 on the first phase of a hotel and convention center expansion project at its 2384 W. River Road facility.

The $40 million to $50 million project calls for a 135-room hotel at the track and casino complex along with an 11,000-square-foot convention center and a 4,000-square-foot restaurant.

Jeffrey Gural, chairman of American Racing, told The Business Journal at the time that he expected to boost Tioga’s staff from the current 300 people to 375 once the project is finished.

Gural said he expects the hotel and event center to draw new business, such as weddings, banquets, and overnight guests from nearby Route 17.

American Racing and Entertainment took control of Vernon Downs in 2006 and opened Tioga Downs in the same year. 

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