Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vernon Downs: A Lame Little Casino In The Middle Of Nowhere (Near Me!)

Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel
Click here to book a room at Vernon Downs!

The Good: Nonsmoking!, Variety of slot machines
The Bad: Dark, Lack of "atmosphere," New old video slot machines.
The Basics: A very average racino, Vernon Downs is my local place to play video slots because it is nonsmoking, nothing more.

As I reach the last of the casinos I have recently sampled, I am breathing a sigh of relief. I am breathing a sigh of relief because many of the later casinos I have reviewed have simply bored me (I suppose the bug that bit me this summer's venom has worked its way out) and the final casino is a Nonsmoking casino! Vernon Downs, in upstate New York, is a state-run facility, which means that it must comply with New York State laws and as such the entire casino is one giant, Nonsmoking room. YEA!

Vernon Downs casino, pardon me - Racino (it is a casino attached to a race track) - is less than twenty-five miles from my house, making it one of the two closest casinos to me. To be honest, it is the one I prefer to go to when I feel the urge to gamble locally. Having a place to breathe and gamble is awfully nice. So, despite the relative lameness of Vernon Downs (it is, at best, an average slot-machine-driven casino), it is ultimately getting a "recommend" from me.

Vernon Downs Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $10.00.


Vernon Downs is a large casino located off Route 5 in Vernon, New York. This is about thirty-five minutes East of Syracuse, New York and there are signs as one approaches that let visitors know it is coming up. On-line mapping programs like MapQuest tend to have the proper location for the Vernon Downs Casino, which is properly 4229 Stuhlman Road, Vernon, NY.

Vernon Downs has an extensive parking area near the casino and that accommodates the casino, race track, and nearby hotel.


The Vernon Downs Casino is a large casino run by the state of New York (the same group that runs our lottery). The casino is big, though it is contained to a single floor of a single building. All of the ceilings are high, all of the carpets are clean and the place feels like one massive arcade, even in the middle of the day. The lighting is rather dark at all hours of the day so it feels like a movie theater in some ways. Outside the lighting, Vernon Downs is spaced and dressed up like a hotel lobby. The gaming floor is big and situated with a large number of video slot machines headed in different directions to make traveling through them difficult; no matter how fast you want to get through this casino, you'll be obstructed by a bank of video slot machines if you keep moving forward.

Vernon Downs is a no smoking facility, so there is no problem with the atmosphere here. Instead, it is easy to breathe easy here. The air is clean, even if the place is kept dark. It is pretty wonderful to sit down at a machine and not have cigar smoke next to you.

As for the "atmosphere" of the Vernon Downs, servers walk around offering drinks dressed in very casual clothes; a black shirt and slacks. I suppose I'm fine with this because I seem to see an inordinate number of my former students working at the casino. I swear one of them was wearing sweat pants one day when I went to gamble! I suppose the atmosphere might appeal to senior citizens (there always seem to be seniors there) or others who don't want to be distracted while gambling.

It only adds to the idea that Vernon Downs is a fairly bland little casino. Of course, one of the reasons I feel this way might be that I tend to take my mother there on senior days so she can get her buffet cheaper and they usually have a polka band playing, but it's still a pretty bland little casino.

Gaming Options/Player's Club

I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. I know my limits: I can afford to lose $5.00. So, when I am above that, I'll usually work it up or whittle it down to the next even $5.00. Have a strategy, know your limits: the Vernon Downs Casino worked quite well for me. Actually, it worked remarkably well because of the player's club, which gave me ten dollars of free play after I risked (not lost, just played) ten dollars. So, for sitting at a machine and rotating my five dollars up and down for a half hour, I was given ten dollars. Pretty sweet deal.

Anyway, I tend to like the video slot machines that are more girly themed or video game-like. Vernon Downs had a very standard selection of video slot machines, which was quite a disappointment after seeing all of the potentials in Las Vegas. In fact, they seem to have a selection of new old machines. There were none of the newer machines I saw in Las Vegas, but these machines seem to be either refurbished old machines or older machines that were bought new recently. There is a very typical selection of games, like Alien, "Temptations of the Sea," "Little Green Men Family Reunion," Lucky Leprechaun, Milking For Moo-lah, and an intriguing array of progressives. The Vernon Downs Casino has a fair selection of video slot machines, but very few of each one. Because I had recently been to the Spam Museum (reviewed here!), I tried the Spam video slot machine, which I lost very quickly on (it's one of the more expensive ones). But the slots don't seem particularly loose at Vernon Downs and going on a weekday afternoon, I found virtually everyone around me was losing, so I felt good to get out of there with the additional five buck dollars from the casino. Given that there are over a thousand video slot machines at Vernon Downs it is difficult to express both the size and monotony of this place.

For those who might be into games of chance and card games instead of video slot machines, you're out of luck at Vernon Downs, unless you like betting on horse races. This is a video slot machine depot and horse betting place, nothing more (in terms of gambling).

There is a player's club at the Vernon Downs. It is the Winner's Circle and signing up is free and easy. Signing up (at least now) gives the player $30 in free play. This is done by playing ten dollars, returning to the player's club and getting a ticket for ten dollars. This can only be done once per day, so it's Vernon Downs' way of getting people to keep coming back to the racino.

Points are accrued on the card by playing the video slots based on how much one bets. I've never found anything I could afford to buy with the points, but I've used mine at the buffet and 1000 points gets me something like $1.20 off the buffet. Given that after three hours of play I was only up to 129 points, this is not the most stellar system.

Entertainment Options

The Vernon Downs Casino underplays entertainment and while they have music for the senior citizens every Wednesday, hipper acts are few and far between. In fact, I've not seen any bands advertised that I have ever heard of.

Outside gambling, there is the entertainment of horse racing. Meh.

Dining Options

Vernon Downs has a buffet, which is actually pretty good. For $12.95, one gets an extensive salad bar, choices of four different soups, approximately thirty different dishes - like perogies and onions, chipped barbecued beef, and meat loaf. There is a dessert bar as well.

As well, there is a burger joint - like a little '50's diner - at Vernon Downs as well, though I've never eaten there. They have burgers, fries, and baked goods. They look good, but whenever I've gone to Vernon Downs and had food, I've gone for the gluttony.

Shopping Options

Unlike Las Vegas casinos, Vernon Downs Casino is not trading so much on shopping. There is a little alcove for cashing in points. I swear, the only things I remember seeing at Vernon Downs were a vacuum cleaner and a coffee maker for sale using points accrued on the Winner's Circle card.


Vernon Downs is pretty simple after seeing all of the options that Las Vegas offered. It's a quiet little racino with slots that are not loose and if one is in the area, it is something to do, though it's not much. I go there some days to clear my head after therapy and that might be about what it is best for: limited gambling and gorging oneself on a lot of food. But for those used to the excitement and flash of big casinos, this will be a disappointment.

For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Sahara Casino
Turning Stone Casino And Resort - Vernon, NY
MGM New York New York Casino


For other casino reviews, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the destinations I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel
Click here to book a room at Vernon Downs!

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