Guilty Plea Has Pennsylvania Man Facing Up To 15 Years In Prison For Tioga Downs Fire

Written By David Danzis on February 7, 2024
Exterior of Tioga Downs for a story on a Pennsylvania man pleading guilty for setting a fire that killed 30 racehorses

A Pennsylvania man admitted to starting a fire last year that killed dozens of horses and injured a trainer at an Upstate New York casino.

Boyd H. Fenton set the Nov. 9 fire at Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Nichols. Thirty racehorses and a cat died in the blaze, according to local media reports. A trainer who ran into the barn received third-degree burns, New York State Police said previously.

Fenton, 33, of Athens, Penn., pleaded guilty to felony charges of third-degree arson, second-degree assault and 30 counts of interference with or injury to certain domestic animals.

He faces up to 15 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 19 in Tioga County Court.

No reason has been given for starting the fire.

Fire set at Tioga Downs ravages property

According to local media, Tioga County dispatch received a call at 6:34 a.m. reporting a fire at the racing and gambling complex.

By the time emergency personnel arrived the fire had already caused extensive damage to the property and claimed the lives of the animals inside.

Tioga is a standardbred (⅝ mile) racetrack. It holds races between May and September on the weekends.

The horses that died in the 2023 upstate NY casino fire were not owned by Tioga but are trained at the racetrack during the winter months.

A lot going on at Tioga Downs

The incident is certainly a setback for Tioga Downs Casino Resort, a racino owned by Jeff Gural, CEO of American Racing and Entertainment (Meadowlands Racetrack).

Gural bought the property for $32 million in 2005. One year later, Tioga Downs installed video-game lottery terminal slot machines and officially became a racino.

In 2016, Tioga became a class III gaming facility, meaning it could offer live dealer table games and random-number-generator slots. It is one of four upstate commercial casinos, which could become eligible to offer online casinos in New York when lawmakers legalize them.

A 160-room hotel opened at Tioga in 2017.

Photo by Heather Ainsworth / AP Photo
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David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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