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Batavia Downs officials keeping an 'i' out for legislation concerning mobile gaming in New York State

By Mike Pettinella
Feb 23, 2023, 12:35pm

If and when iGaming comes to New York State, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials say they want a piece of the action.

Speaking about the corporation’s lobbying efforts in Albany, President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said that he is keeping abreast of a bill that would allow iGaming in New York.

“Six states actually have it already and they’re reporting record levels (of revenue),” he said during this morning’s board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

An internet search of iGaming reveals that it’s an increasingly popular form of mobile betting or gambling that includes Casino games, real money slot games, sports betting and horse race betting. Per Transparency Market Research, the iGaming sector is set to generate $100 billion by 2024.

“iGaming is something that’s being proposed by State Senator (Joseph) Abbaddo (Jr.), who’s the chair of the Senate Gaming Committee,” Wojtaszek said. “He’s submitted it as a bill and it allows for mobile or remote gaming on your computer or on your phone.”

Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs Gaming would be asking to be included in this opportunity, along with Finger Lakes and Buffalo Raceway.

“We would be looking to establish an online platform, as well as other casinos across the state, so that we can be competitive within the industry,” he said, noting that WROTB’s Batavia Bets interactive online platform covers harness race betting only.

Currently, the other six states that permit iGaming are New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, he said.

Abbaddo, a Democrat who represents the 15th District (Queens), recently spoke about the bill, which moved forward into the State Assembly on Feb. 3.

He cited projections that iGaming would surpass mobile sports betting (which already is legal in New York State) and urged his colleagues to pass the bill into law.

“Every year we don’t do iGaming in New York, if you do the math, there’s roughly $4 billion lost – if you think of it that way; revenue lost – and lost to another state and to the illegal market,” he was quoted as saying.

Abbaddo said his goal was to get the bill passed by the end of this year’s legislative session.

In other developments:

  • WROTB directors approved the promotion of Danielle Fleming to the Director of Human Resources position, a move up from her current role as payroll supervisor.

“We had three excellent candidates from within who applied and Danielle is the one who has been recommended for hire,” Wojtaszek said, adding that she started in the marketing department before moving to payroll. “She is very smart and very talented and we’re glad to have her here.”

  • Batavia Downs harness racing’s handle in January and February 2023 represented a 35 percent increase from the handle at Buffalo Raceway for those two months in 2022. There had been no January-February racing at Batavia Downs previous to this year, when WROTB officials reached an agreement with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to conduct a slate two or three days a week during those months.

Wojtaszek called the limited meet a “great success” and will be exploring continuing it in 2024 depending on the WNYHHA’s position.

  • Directors voted to enter into a contract with PPR Energy to provide the infrastructure needed to prepare for the installation of 16 electric vehicle charging stations at Batavia Downs Gaming.

Wojtaszek said the stations would be built in two locations – 12 of them in the general parking lot and four in the valet parking area. Right now, there are two EV charging stations in the valet parking lot.

  • WNY Tile and Stone Corp. of North Tonawanda has been hired to install new floor and wall tile on the second floor in the restroom area at Batavia Downs Gaming and the same in the Park Place banquet room and boardroom on the first floor at a total cost of $160,000.

It was reported that the expense would be covered by insurance, stemming from flooding at the facility several months ago.

Additionally, directors approved a $69,900 contract with Painters Plus Home Decorating of North Tonawanda as the lowest bidder to paint the 67 rooms at the Hotel at Batavia Downs.

  • Directors voted to purchase a block of eight tickets with parking from Live Nation for the 2023 concert series at Darien Lake at an amount not to exceed $30,000.

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