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Colonie resident behind track’s success

Gary Greenberg’s lobbying has helped Vernon Downs move into the future

— “The track became less and less profitable as more OTB’s, lotteries and the Turning Stone Casino opened up,” he said. “It limited their [Vernon Downs’] ability to function. It increased my involvement.”

The Board of Directors soon found New York City Real Estate Executive Jeff Gural, a horse breeder who was involved in the racing industry. Greenberg represented the shareholders of the company when Gural presented his plan to the board and a deal was worked out where Gural would own 90 percent of the company and the 99 other shareholders would own the other 10 percent.

In 2006, the harness track opened back up and some renovations were completed for the VLT’s. This was not the end of its troubles, though. Having to compete with a tax-free company like Turning Stone Casino was becoming more difficult, Greenberg said. To help fix this, he said he began lobbying the New York State Legislature to allow facilities in the same predicament to start taking in more revenue from VLTs.

“Gural closed the track for three days in 2008,” he said. “He owns Tioga [Downs Casino Racing and Entertainment] as well, so he closed those down. After he did that, the Assembly, Senate and governor signed a bill to allow racinos to keep more of the revenues and commissions. It helped tremendously.”

Greenberg earned a degree in public affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. This, he said, helped when he lobbied legislators such as Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, and Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes. He has also been involved in various civic communities throughout the town of Colonie.

His next objective is to expand the casino in Vernon Downs, and he hopes to eventually install full tables at the casinos, giving it a better chance of competing with the nearby Turning Stone Casino. He said if two consecutive legislative sessions vote the bill through, and if the public votes in favor for it on a constitutional referendum on the November 2013 ballot, the facility will be able to go through with the expansion

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