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WROTB's Rochester director stands behind Wojtaszek, senior management as record revenues continue

By Mike Pettinella
Dennis Bassett

A longtime director of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning threw his unwavering support behind President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, stating that the public benefit company has “weathered the storm” to produce record results over the past two years.

“We’re excited about how Henry has kept his eye on the ball,” said Dennis Bassett, the City of Rochester representative since 2009 (photo at right), following the monthly board meeting at WROTB’s Park Place headquarters. “He's been a good leader for Batavia Downs. He's garnered the support of the board, and I think we should continue that support moving forward.”

When asked to comment about the legal turmoil that has surrounded WROTB in recent years – pending lawsuits, a critical report from the New York State Comptroller’s Office and a state-mandated reorganization of the board of directors, Bassett said he sees it more as “opportunities” for the corporation.

“Well, I wouldn’t call it turmoil as much as I would call it opportunities for the board,” he responded. “We went through some times where we were questioned about a number of things, and we feel the board has weathered that storm -- we've weathered the storm.

“We have made sure that we made good business decisions with the hotel. We didn't have concerts three or four years ago. We didn't open up the facility to corporate meetings. Now we have close to 100 corporate meetings now. Five years ago, we probably had five or six corporate meetings.”

Bassett said expanding the facility’s use has been the result of “good board input, its business experience and … the help of leadership to make this place a destination.”

He declined to comment on any pending litigation, which includes a whistleblower lawsuit by former Chief Operating Officer Michael Nolan against WROTB, former Board Chair Richard Bianchi and Wojtaszek.

“That is something that I would like to stay away from. I really don't want to comment on those things,” he said.

Bassett defended the previous board’s decision to extend three-year contracts to senior management – an action that took place in May, just prior to state legislation that disbanded that board and put new voting parameters in place (giving more weight to Democrat Party-controlled municipalities, including Rochester).

“I think our decision to do that was very important because it gives us a little stability with our leadership here at Batavia Downs,” he said. “We don’t want good, talented people to be looking elsewhere. So, the contracts showed that with any change in the board and any changes moving forward, we have a solid group of people who can manage the business. And they've been managing it successfully for the last few years. And this year -- and last year – we’ve seen record results.”

VP/Operations Sean Schiano reported at the meeting that the net win for August of $7.1 million puts that month in the top five all-time and that September's net win is expected to surpass the $7 million mark. Net win is the amount money left in the Video Lottery Terminal after paying out customers.

Directors present at today’s meeting were unable to conduct any official business (such as passing any resolutions) because of the lack of a quorum. With directors from Erie County and the City of Buffalo (Jennifer Hibit and Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, respectively) absent, only 68 percent of the board in terms of voting power was in attendance, Wojtaszek said.

Erie and Monroe, plus Buffalo and Rochester, account for 62 of the 100 votes in the weighted format. Genesee County, the host municipality, has two votes. A group of rural counties is mounting a legal challenge to the state's decision to eliminate the previous board, citing "Home Rule" legislation that has been in place for quite some time.

Wojtaszek said that he expects all of the directors to receive licenses from the State Gaming Commission by the October meeting.

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