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Batavia Downs, Vernon Downs want lower tax rate from New York State

Apr 6, 2017 9:28 AM

Now that The Oneida Nation said it plans to open its third casino in central New York next year, two upstate New York harness tracks with video-lottery terminals say they want a lower tax rate from the state.

Both Batavia Downs in western New York, midway between Buffalo and Rochester and Vernon Downs, between Rochester and Syracuse say the added competition may jeopardize their future.

The Oneidas, who own the expansive Turning Stone Resort/Casino in Verona have been aggressive in their development since the 2014 approval of plans for a new casino in nearby Seneca County. That casino, called del Lago, opened in February.

Mike Nolan, the COO of Batavia Downs, said in a statement, “We have been working diligently with state officials to create a stable plan for tax parity and are very hopeful this can be accomplished in the state budget,”

Batavia Downs is owned by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, which shares its profits with the 15 counties and two cities, Buffalo and Rochester, in which it operates.

Nolan continued, "Having created new state casinos and a hyper sensitive business environment without leveling the playing field, potentially means job cuts here and additional loss for horseman through central and western New York."

Finger Lakes, a thoroughbred track with a casino, last year received a tax break because the $425 million del Lago was opening nearby. After months of contention, the operators at Finger Lakes and del Lago agreed to subsidize the horsemen because of the new competition.

The Oneidas' operate casinos on tribal land, so the tribe doesn't need state or federal approval to expand its operations.