Vernon Downs to allow a limited number of racing fans starting this weekend
Updated Apr 23, 2021; Posted Apr 23, 2021
Vernon Downs
A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the harness racing at Vernon Downs in Oneida County starting April 23. Dennis NettSYR

By Don Cazentre |
Vernon, N.Y. — For the first time since 2019, Vernon Downs tonight will begin welcoming fans to its harness racing track.

Under new state guidelines that took effect this week, race tracks can allow up to 20 percent capacity in the stands. Tonight and Saturday, Vernon Downs will allow up to 199 fans.

The track opens at 5 p.m. A news release said the 199-person limit would be enforced “at any given time” during the night. Racing typically starts at 6:10 p.m.

All fans must provide identification and will have their temperature checked before entry to the track area. Masks are required at all times. There will be limited food available at the track concession stand, but no other restaurants or food venues on the grounds will be open at this point.

Vernon Downs, at 4229 Stuhlman Road in Vernon, Oneida County, opened its 68th season on April 17, but without fans. It hosted a shortened racing season without fans after the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

Vernon Downs Casino Hotel is a “racino” that combines a harness racing track (and concert venue) with a slot-machine gaming floor and a hotel. Jeff Gural owns it through his company American Racing and Entertainment.

The casino’s gaming floor is open under current state restrictions.

The pandemic and the resulting state restrictions have caused Gural’s “multi-million dollar” loss at Vernon Downs. He said the track itself lost as much as $150,000 a month during the 2020 season without fans.

The 2021 racing season is scheduled to run through November 3, with races every Friday and Saturday nights and on Thursdays during the summer.

Related: Despite a tough year, Vernon Downs donates to CNY Food Bank.

Don Cazentre writes for,, and The Post-Standard. Reach him at, or follow him at, on Twitter or Facebook.

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