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By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer


TESTING HIS LUCK — A gamer takes a turn at a Tower of Power machine at the Vernon Downs racino. There are different machines for the different games offered. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

GAMING PARLOR — Bill and Nancy Crane from Pennsylvania work an Aztec Temple machine at the Vernon Downs racino. The facility features more than 750 video lottery terminals. The machines, which look like slot machines, are hooked up to state Lottery Division computers. (Sentinel file photo by John Clifford)

VERNON — The Vernon Downs gambling parlor generated more than $15.1 million for education during 2011-2012, according to data compiled by the state Division of Lottery.

Total net win from April 2011 to March of this year was nearly $43.3 million. Both numbers are up over the previous year. The 2010-11 total was about $41.2 million with $14.3 million going to the state for education.

Net win is the revenue remaining after payout of prizes to players. A state-set formula determines how much money goes to New York for schools and how much is kept by the track for various purposes. Thirty-five percent of the racino net win goes to the state to help fund education.

Vernon Downs has about 770 video lottery terminals in its year-round gaming facility. The terminals that are similar to electronic slot machines are controlled by the state Lottery.

The nine racinos at New York horse tracks had a total net win of $1.4 billion for 2011-12 compared with $1.1 billion for the previous 12 months, a 29 percent increase. The tracks open the entire 12 months all had record years and grew year over year. The state received $666.8 million for education in New York during the just completed fiscal year.

The total numbers have been boosted significantly since video lottery terminals went online at the Aqueduct track, in the New York City borough of Queens, in October.

Jeffrey Gural, CEO and chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, which operates Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier, estimates revenue generated by Vernon Downs racino for education was equivalent to the annual salaries of about 217 teachers.

"For that we thank our customers and the lottery for working with us to constantly improve our product which allows us to continue to grow and increase our support of education," said Gural, adding that Vernon Downs has generated more than $78.8 in education funding since 2006.

The figures show how important the racinos have become to the state, says Gary Greenberg, minority owner of Vernon Downs.

"The citizens of New York state have attended racinos in New York in record numbers to support the local racino in the communities they live in," he said. "The nine racinos are now ready to bring the next step of gaming entertainment to New York state, full casinos."

The state constitution bans full-fledged casinos. There is a proposal to end the ban. Indian-run casinos, like the Oneida Indian’s Nation’s Turning Stone Resort and Casino, are not covered by the state constitution. Turning Stone is about five miles from Vernon Downs.

Seasonal harness racing opens April 27 at Vernon Downs and continues through Nov. 3.

RomeSentinel.com

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