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August 27, 2020 - 12:01pm

Batavia Downs president has keen eye on sports betting developments, hopes to open next month

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, Batavia Downs Gaming.

State lawmakers are expected to take a close look at sports betting and the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation wants a piece of the action.

“We want to make sure we’re included in that discussion,” WROTB President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said at this morning’s monthly board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming. “I ask all of you (directors) to talk to your legislators in your districts (as) we should be part of that dialogue.”

Wojtaszek said he has drafted a letter that is being circulated to OTB parlors and video lottery terminal sites that makes WROTB’s case for inclusion in sports betting operations, including online and via telephone.

He said that he hopes the state legislature addresses it within four to six weeks.

“We want to be part of this industry,” he said. “We can handle this.”

In other developments from the meeting:

  • The board heard a report from Beverly Mazur, branch operations committee chair, revealing that Batavia Bets, the corporation’s interactive online and telephone wagering platform, is achieving record numbers despite the gaming facility being closed and the harness track being dark for two to three months.

Mazur disclosed that revenue from Batavia Bets increased by $860,000 (70 percent) in July – reaching the $2 million mark for the first time – after being up by $715,000 (61 percent) in June.

Through Aug. 24, revenue climbed by $500,000 (45 percent) for the month, and it is anticipated that it will surpass $2 million again. Year-to-date revenue is up by $1.7 million (20 percent).

On the other hand, the harness track handle is down $330,000 as fans have not been allowed during the races.

  • Board Chair Richard Bianchi (Monroe County) honored Mazur, the Erie County representative who will be stepping down later this year after serving as a director since 2010.

“When she walked in the building, the rafters in this place shook,” said Bianchi, getting a bit emotional as he said this was his most difficult meeting ever (as he had to bid farewell to Mazur). “She was an integral part of the advances we have made … increased attendance and gaming revenue.”

Mazur said she was honored to serve on the board, enjoying every minute of her 10 years.

“Most importantly, we knew we we’re growing because we we’re making changes,” she said, talking about the major enhancements over the past decade.

  • Wojtaszek said he sees “a glimmer of hope” as far as when the casino will be able to reopen.

“I’m thinking that next week we will have some guidelines as to how and when we can reopen,” he said. “I hope to open sometime in September … depending upon the governor’s office and the data (COVID-19 metrics).”

He said maintenance staff has installed plexiglass as required, placed arrows on the floor (for social distancing) and installed new air conditioning unit MERV-13 (minimum efficiency reporting value) filters.

Wojtaszek also said staff will be taking patrons’ temperatures and is prepared to utilize contact tracing technology “once we get the OK and guidelines as to what we have to do officially.”

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Photo: Ed Morgan (Orleans County), WROTB board vice chair; Director Beverly Mazur (Erie County); Richard Bianchi (Monroe County), WROTB chair, following today's meeting during which Mazur was honored for a decade of service to the board. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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