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Batavia Downs

June 26, 2020 - 12:26pm

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Longtime Western Regional Off-Track Betting (WROTBC) employee Aaron Galanti was named the new Track Superintendent at Batavia Downs on Thursday after Fran Mruczek announced his retirement on Monday (June 22).

Galanti has worked under Mruczek for a number of years.

Galanti joined WROTBC, the owner of Batavia Downs, in 2008 and has worked with the track crew since 2009.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to become the track super,” Galanti said.

“Equine safety will continue to be our number one priority at Batavia Downs and I look forward to working with all the horsemen and horsewomen in regards to such.”

“We can’t thank Fran enough for his many years of dedicated service to our corporation," said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing. "It was not unusual to see Fran out on the track at 10 p.m. watering on dark days or here at 3 a.m. plowing snow. The racetrack was certainly his baby.” 

“And we’re all very happy for Aaron; he’s a great guy who has earned this opportunity. He has learned from the best and is ready for his new role; I’m confident he’ll do an outstanding job.”

Live harness racing returns to Batavia Downs on Saturday (July 25) with post time scheduled for 5 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Batavia Downs.

June 18, 2020 - 12:43pm

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Horsemen wishing to race at Batavia Downs for the upcoming 2020 annual summer/fall meet should note that stall applications are now available on the track’s website

Simply click Live Racing>Horsemen>Stall Application, Agreement & Reservations link to download.

Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association office located on-site at Buffalo Raceway.

The complete 2020 racing schedule can also be found at Live Racing>Live Racing Schedule.

Batavia Downs will conduct a 43-day meet this year with daily purses down roughly 20 percent from last year due to the gaming floor closure since Mid-March.

“We have worked closely with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to do what was best for them with regard to our purses this season, as well as for future meets given the current conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing. 

Racing Secretary Joe Zambito has stated that stall applications must be received by the track no later than Friday (July 3).

During this meet, Open I events (on both gaits and including filly and mare pacers) will compete for $10,000 while the Open II will race for $9,000 and the Open III will go for $8,000.

The backstretch will open for both tack and horses at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 18.

Batavia Downs offers a text messaging service for notices about draws, entries and changes to the racing schedule. Horsemen are strongly encouraged to text the word “HORSEMAN” to 51660. You will then need to reply “YES” and you will be opted in for race office text message updates. 

The 74th season of live harness racing at America’s oldest lighted harness kicks off on Saturday, July 25 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 12.

June 18, 2020 - 11:52am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, belmont stakes, Fortune's, OTB.

Press release:

Officials at Batavia Downs today announced that in preparation for the Belmont Stakes running this weekend, they have implemented several promotions that will take place onsite.

At Fortune’s restaurant, guests can order the $25 Belmont special, which consists of two 10 oz. strip steaks, a $5 wager on the Belmont and two $10 Gaming Free Plays, valid to be redeemed once the gaming floor is reopened. This special is for dine-in customers only and can be purchased anytime on Friday or Saturday up until Belmont Post time of 5:42 p.m.

There will be $2.50 Belmont Breeze drinks available at the Gatsby Bar.

The purchase of any entrees this weekend will also allow the purchaser to receive $10 Free Plays to be redeemed once the gaming floor is reopened.

Batavia Downs also announced that their on-site simulcast center will be open on Friday for those wishing to make advance wagers. It will be open Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Guests may wager on the Belmont Stakes or any other tracks that are running.  Western OTB’s branches across Western and Central New York are also open for advanced wagers on Friday and Saturday.

Those wishing to visit Fortune's or OTB Branches must wear a mask.

To reach the simulcast center, guests may enter at the valet entrance and take the elevator by Fortune’s or go through the main doors and up to the second floor. 

The gaming floor remains closed at this time.

“The Belmont Stakes is usually the third leg of the Triple Crown, but this year the order has been restructured and New York’s leg is up first,” said Todd Haight, general manager of Live Racing. “We’re looking forward to a great race and hope to see people take advantage of these great promotions.”

To make an order for take out or to make reservations, guests may call 585-FORTUNE -- (585) 367-8863.

June 12, 2020 - 4:11pm

The New York Sire Stakes, the state's premier harness racing program, has released the complete and revised schedule for the 2020 racing season. Two-year-olds will begin with filly pacers on July 4 at Vernon Downs.

As previously announced, 3-year-old events get underway June 21 at Tioga Downs. A full schedule, including dates for Batavia Downs, can be found at nysirestakes.com.

All dates are pending New York State Gaming Commission approval at the individual raceways and are subject to alterations as racing, operating and regulatory conditions change. The NYSS will notify horseman as soon as possible if any changes occur.

"It’s an exciting step to release the revised schedule for our 2020 season,” said Kelly Young, executive director of the Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. “We appreciate the patience of all our participants as we worked through many uncertainties and continue to address challenges as they emerge.

"We understand there are still many things that could change over the next few months, but this schedule reflects the best information we have at this time. We will continue to work with the state’s racetracks to stay as close to this schedule as possible if changes are necessary or if a track cannot accommodate an event.”

The NYSS would like to thank the management and staff at each track for their cooperation and assistance in developing this schedule. The NYSS is a partnership between the state, the horsemen and the raceways and we were inspired to see the collaborative spirit among all involved to help solidify the 2020 calendar.

Changes for the upcoming season have been approved by the Trustees of the Fund to address the shortfall in revenue due to the extended track closures. The NYSS and Excelsior Series will host five legs for each of the age, gait and sex divisions. Purses for each leg will be maintained at a level very similar to last year.

Excelsior purses remain the same for both the A and B levels ($15,000 and $6,000 plus starting fees, respectively) with no Excelsior events raced at Goshen Historic Track this year.

NYSS Finals on the Night of Champions, Excelsior Finals and County Fair Finals purses will remain at their previously announced levels of $225,000, $50,000 and $10,000, respectively, per division. There will be no Sire Stakes Consolation events this year.

An update on the County Fair schedule is slated to be announced in the coming week. The first racing date is slated for July 9 and the Finals are still planned for the Labor Day weekend.

The publication of the County Fair Racing Schedule booklet has been delayed as dates and procedures are confirmed with participating fairs, but will be available in print and digital form as soon as details are finalized.

June 12, 2020 - 11:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

Officials at Batavia Downs today announced that with the expectation that Phase Three reopening is implemented in the Finger Lakes Region on today, June 12th -- the Fortune's restaurant will be open for dine in or take out from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The gaming facility remains closed at this time.

There will be a limited menu to choose from. That menu is available on the Batavia Downs website as well as their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

New safety regulations will be put into place for those visiting the facility. All patrons must park in the south parking lot (Valet Lot) and come through the valet entrance. The valet is not operating at this time.

To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, upon entry into the facility guests are required to wear a mask up until the time that they are seated at their table. Please note that the restaurant will operate at a limited capacity. All persons within a dining party must also adhere to safe social distancing while waiting in the lobby.

If coming for take out, you must wear a mask for the entirety of your visit as you check-in at the hostess station for your food.

Fortune's will also be open on Friday, June 19th.

“We look forward to opening up our restaurants on these next two Fridays,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO. “We’re working hard on a plan for reopening the entire facility and will do so once we get the go-ahead from New York State.”

To make an order for take out or to make reservations, please call (585) FORTUNE (367-8863) after 11 a.m. on Friday, June 12th.

May 12, 2020 - 5:43pm

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Bernie E. Hanley, age 84, of Batavia, NY, died peacefully on Thursday (May 7, 2020) at the home of his daughter while under the care of Hospice and his loving family. 

Mr. Hanley was born on Feb. 9, 1936, in Fulton, NY, a son of the late Laurence and Mary (Welch) Hanley. After graduating from Batavia High School, he went on to honorably serve his country in the Army during the Korean War. 

Upon returning stateside, Mr. Hanley got involved in harness racing in the 1960s and bought his first horse to compete at Batavia Downs, a pacer named Chief Maynard (2:00.3, $138,342). He was one of the best top-class pacers in Western New York at the time and found the winner’s circle many times. He also raced Mac’s Miss Mary (1:55.3, $150,794), Irish Dancer A (1:59, $117,693), Overnight Guy (2:01.3, $64,985) and several others during his career. 

Although Mr. Hanley was well known on the local harness racing circuit as an owner/trainer for many years, most would remember him (and his wife Mary Ann) as the owner of Hanley’s Restaurant, which was conveniently located directly across the street from Batavia Downs. Hanley’s was the “horseman’s hangout” after the races for decades where wins were celebrated, races were relived and many longtime friendships were formed.

Upon retirement, the Hanley’s moved South to Florida and enjoyed the sun for close to 30 years. While there, was Mr. Hanley was a member of the Deland Amvets Post 13 and the Deland Elks Lodge 1463. He was also a member of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia. 

Mr. Hanley had many friends both in and out of harness racing and will be remembered by all as a hard-working man who loved his family deeply.

Mr. Hanley is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Mary Ann (Musshafen) Hanley of Batavia; children, Patrick (Carol) Hanley of Alabama, Elsie (Greg) Lee of Batavia and Dr. Greg (Angela) Hanley of Tennessee; brother, Larry (Mary) Hanley of Akron; 10 cherished grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren along with many nieces and nephews.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, Mr. Hanley’s Mass of Christian Burial will take place at a later date. 

Memorial contributions in his memory can be made to: HomeCare & Hospice, 26 Liberty St., Batavia, NY 14020 or at http://www.homecare-hospice.org.

You can share your words of comfort with Mr. Hanley’s family at www.tomaszewskifh.com.

For his full obituary, click here.

May 4, 2020 - 4:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, James P. Samberg.

Former Vice President of Operations at Batavia Downs, James P. Samberg, passed away on Wednesday (Apr. 29) at the age of 85.  

Samberg was born in 1935 in Detroit, Mich., where he attended Precious Blood Catholic School and Catholic Central High School. He went on to graduate from St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto with a degree in Theology and Writing. He taught English and history for a year at his alma mater, Catholic Central HS and then at Aquinas Institute. 

In 1983, Samberg transitioned careers and came to Batavia Downs as their Director of Publicity. His leadership in the organization eventually moved him to overseeing the entire plant as vice-president of operations, a position he held until the tracks initial closure in 1997. In 1998 Samberg reached out to Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) with a proposal to sell the track to them and was eventually able to consummate a deal that year. The track reopened under its new ownership in 2002.

It was the efforts of Samberg to move Batavia Downs forward that gave the shuttered track a new life under the guidance of the WROTB and that interaction eventually turned out to be financially beneficial to the residents of 15 Western New York counties (that include the cities of Buffalo and Rochester) by returning more than $220 million in revenues generated by the now modern and thriving racing and gaming venue to the taxpayers of those municipalities over the last 18 years.

Samberg was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend who loved life and everyone he knew. He was well respected by all the horsemen who raced at Batavia Downs during his tenure and will be missed by everyone who knew him.

Samberg was predeceased by his parents, Louis and Martha Samberg; loving wife, Barbara P. Samberg; son, Michael P. McDonald. He is survived by his children, Martha Smith, Mark (Jacqueline) McDonald, Margo McDonald and Meghan McDonald (Scott Boone); 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; brother, Carl L. Samberg; sister, Suzanne (Ronald) Marmol; sister-in-law, Donna Warner; several nieces and nephews; and special friend of the family, Bonnie Jones.

A Memorial Mass at St. Ann's Home will be scheduled at a later date due to the current situation. Interment at Holy Sepulchre was held privately. Memorials may be made to the American Kidney Foundation or to the Sisters of Mercy. To share a memory of James please visit www.giltnerfuneralhomes.com.

-- By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

May 1, 2020 - 5:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, news, covid-19, coronavirus, notify.

Press release:

Officials at Western Regional Off-Track Betting / Batavia Downs Gaming (WROTB/BDG) today announced they have received funds via the Paycheck Protection Program which will provide critical financial relief for costs including payroll, health benefits, rent, and other expenses related to job retention.

The funds will cover the next two months of expenses and were awarded April 30.

“When PPP funding was announced last month, the Board of Directors and I made the decision almost immediately to apply for relief,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of WROTB/BDG. “What was most important was continuing to financially support our staff and their families during these uncertain times.”

The gaming facility was closed on March 16th and employees were paid their full wages for a period of one month. On April 16th they were furloughed for a period of two weeks. Once the PPP loan was secured, employees were recalled to begin work again on the next pay week.

Throughout the temporary closure, there have been employees working onsite including security and surveillance. Others are working from home. As a potential reopening date comes closer there will be new health, safety, and security protocols put into place.

Employees will be trained and made aware of whatever new safety regulations are implemented well in advance of opening in order to provide a safe environment for employees and guests.

“Once we reopen, we will look to continue to deliver revenue to our partners in local government," Wojtaszek said. “Once given the go-ahead by state officials we hope that through the gaming floor, our concerts, and events we can provide much-needed monies to local governments in order to fund critical services from first responders to food banks. We know it will take a lot of preparation on our end to meet those standards, but our dedicated staff will ready to take on the task.”

Western Regional OTB and Batavia Downs employs more than 450 hardworking Western New Yorkers.

April 22, 2020 - 12:53pm

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced that out of an abundance of caution surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the first two “Rockin the Downs” concerts scheduled for this June have been rescheduled to late August.

The Vince Neil concert scheduled for Friday, June 19th, 2020 will take place on Friday, Aug. 21st.

The Steve Augeri concert scheduled for Friday, June 26th, 2020 will take place on Friday, Aug. 28th.

So now the 2020 “Rockin the Downs” concert series will kick off with the regularly scheduled July 10th performance by Molly Hatchet.

Please note that all tickets already sold for these concerts will be honored on the new dates.

“We felt it was necessary to reschedule the start of the series,” said Henry Wojtaszek, CEO/president of Batavia Downs Gaming. “We are still looking forward to seeing everyone this summer, at time when local and state officials have determined it is safe to do so.”

Tickets to all concerts are available at BataviaConcerts.com

April 20, 2020 - 8:52am
posted by Mike Pettinella in sports, Batavia Downs, United States Trotting Association.

Submitted photo and press release:

Todd Haight, director and general manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs, was named the interim chairman of United States Trotting Association District 8 region on Friday.

Haight will replace longtime District 8 chairman Michael Kane, who resigned earlier this year.

Haight was elected by his peers to his first term as a director during voting in January of this year and was assigned to the Communications/Marketing, Pari-Mutuel and Regulatory committees. He was again voted by his peers to the chairman position last week.

District 8 covers all of New York State as far south as Orange County. The roster of current directors include Kim Crawford, Mark Ford, John Matarazzo, Ray Schnittker, Mike Torcello and Scott Warren.

“I want to thank Mike Kane for the outstanding job he did during his tenure as chair," Haight said. "Having worked with Mike for many years, I feel the transition to his position should be seamless. I’m honored to take over and look forward to working with USTA President Russell Williams, Chairman Joe Faraldo, Vice-chair Mark Loewe and all the USTA directors.

“Despite the unprecedented times we are all currently working through, I feel that harness racing will return to the sports scene very soon and regain its popularity once again. And in my new role I plan on doing whatever I can to be a part of that resurgence in New York and across North America.”

Kelly Young is the Executive Director at Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and oversees the operations of the New York Sire Stakes.

She works closely with the chairman of District 8 during the stakes year as well as running the awards banquet in the fall. Young has worked with Haight for many years and looks forward to further concerted state racing promotional efforts with him in his new role.

“I have been pleased to work with Todd for nearly two decades at Batavia Downs and am excited to welcome him to, and work with him in this new role leading Upstate New York," Young said. "I would also like to thank outgoing chairman Mike Kane for his collaboration and leadership over the years."

Haight started his career with Western Regional OTB in 1998 when they became the new owners of Batavia Downs. He then served in various positions at the track before taking over as the director and general manager of racing in May of 2011.

March 16, 2020 - 4:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, OTB, news, batavia, coronavirus, covid-19.

Press release:

In accordance with a directive given by Governor Cuomo, Batavia Downs Gaming and all off-track betting branches will be closed for business as of 8 o'clock tonight, Monday, March 16th.

The health and wellness of our guests and staff is our top priority and has been throughout this entire process as we have continued to work alongside our State and local governments as well as the New York Gaming Commission.

We will provide an update when the gaming floor and branches will reopen, taking into account guidance from the State’s public health authorities as soon as it is received.

Guests can continue to monitor our website and Facebook for any questions they may have.

We ask that you please follow the directives given by the government to help prevent the spread of the virus. We wish you and your family our best at this time.

March 14, 2020 - 6:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, news, notify, covid-19, coronavirus.


Batavia Downs, like other public facilities across the state in the wake of COVID-19, is complying with new state directives on reduced capacity and social distancing, Western OTB CEO Henry Wojtaszek said this evening.

The Batavian contacted Wojtaszek in part because several people over the past day have expressed concern to us that Batavia Downs was exempt from the new rules.

The directive from the NYS Department of Health requires bars and restaurants to restrict occupancy to 50 percent of normal capacity (PDF).

The directive specifically mentions gaming facilities and Wojtaszek said Western OTB has also received guidance from the state's gaming commission.

"We're operating in accordance with state guidance," Wojtaszek said. "We're trying to create a safe environment, keep a safe social distance between customers, and keep everybody as safe as possible."

Each room of the facility will maintain an occupancy rate of no more than 50 percent of capacity, with security guards at the entrance of each, maintaining a count, Wojtaszek said. That applies to each restaurant inside Batavia Downs as well as each bar and the gaming rooms. 

Batavia Downs will also be limited to no more than 500 customers inside the entire facility at any one time, he said, though occupants of the hotel will not count against that number.

Chairs have been removed between every other VTL (slot) machine to provide extra distance between customers.

The new state rules requiring facilities to operate at 50 percent of capacity also prohibits gatherings of 500 people or more and planned gatherings of fewer people, organizers must reduce the size of the crowd.

The new directive applies to:

  • Auditoriums,
  • Concerts,
  • Conferences,
  • Sporting events,
  • Restaurants,
  • Gaming establishments,
  • Physical fitness centers,
  • Theaters.

Businesses and facilities that can maintain safe social distancing can apply for an exemption to the 50-percent capacity rule.

Signs must also be posted directing anybody who is sick or becomes sick to either not enter or leave. Staff must be alerted and trained to spot people displaying symptoms of coronavirus.

"Like everybody else, we're concerned with public safety and we think it's a fair assessment to follow the guidance given to us by the state and the gaming commission," Wojtaszek said. "Certainly, we'll have fewer people at our facility but in the scheme of things, it's the right thing to do for public health and we're happy to comply."

Photo: File photo.

March 10, 2020 - 3:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, GLOW Wedding Expo, news.


Batavia Downs hosted its fourth GLOW Wedding Expo on Saturday, with more than two dozen vendors, food, music, and a wedding gown fashion show.




February 27, 2020 - 12:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, news, off-track betting.

Press release:

Officials from Batavia Downs Gaming and Western OTB formally closed the books on a record-breaking 2019. Revenues distributed to member municipalities totaled $3,628,250, a new high.

Distributions were given in the fourth quarter for the first time since 1999. Batavia Downs Gaming contributed $31,315,212.38 to State Education via the New York State Lottery in 2019. This was also a record, beating 2018’s number by $1.6 million.

Distributions to each municipality were as follows, first listed is in 2019, then since OTB’s inception:

City of Buffalo -- $341,896  /  $27,338,900

Cattaraugus County – $114,116  /  $5,098,921

Cayuga County -- $107,047  /  $5,291,686

Chautauqua County -- $187,170  /  $9,481,076

Erie County -- $860,687   /   $61,410,960

Genesee County -- $83,483  /  $12,556,944

Livingston County -- $89,637  /  $3,381,747

Monroe County -- $683,647  /  $40,091,743

Niagara County -- $278,003  /  $20,466,264

Orleans County -- $60,923  /  $2,529,226

Oswego County -- $115,898  /  $9,502,653

City of Rochester -- $269,704  /  $20,396,738

Seneca County -- $47,635  /  $2,994,175

Steuben County -- $136,002  /  $6,692,909

Schuyler County -- $26,509  /  $1,055,437

Wayne County -- $128,282  /  $5,076,503

Wyoming County -- $57,612  /  $1,875,587

“With the close of 2019, we’re able to really see what we’ve accomplished,” said Jacquelyne Leach, chief financial officer for WesternOTB/Batavia Downs. “Our total distributions to municipalities were $3,628,250, bringing our total since our inception to $235,241,469.

"We haven’t had distributions to municipalities in the fourth quarter since 1999 but with 6.85 percent growth in 2019’s fourth quarter, we were able to distribute $417,540 for the quarter to the counties and cities whom we serve.

"At a tax rate of 49 percent almost half of the money generated at Batavia Downs goes to NYS to help fund the State Education Budget. We’re proud to have given the highest amount we’ve ever had back to the citizens of New York.”

Henry Wojtaszek, president, and CEO of Batavia Downs, said: “These numbers are a testament to the hard work put in by our entire staff. By adding more events and promotions, we’ve continued the growth into 2020 with back to back record weeks in February and overall growth of 13 percent through the 24th of February this year.

"With a highly anticipated Summer Concert Series, Racing Dates and promotions we’re looking forward to contributing more to our member municipalities and the State Education Fund.”

About Batavia Downs/WROTB

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia, NY. WROTB owns and operates 17 branches, online Wagering site Bataviabets.com as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standardbred racetrack and gaming facility. Since its inception, Western Region OTB has generated over $235 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of those participating municipalities.


February 7, 2020 - 10:48am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, business, Recycling.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming is expanding, and with it are their internal initiatives to “go green.” A new comprehensive, company-wide recycling program called the “Green Initiative” is now being implemented at Batavia Downs.

With additional seating areas added to the Fortune’s and 34 Rush restaurants an increase in waste is expected. To ensure that as much is recycled as possible, Batavia Downs has established a “Green Team” to carry out the many proactive steps that are required for the program to thrive.

These staff members have gathered various perspectives on what a successful recycling program should look like for the company and will now be looking to implement those at the restaurants and office areas within the building.

“Green Team” members will be setting up recycling stations for waste, gather input from departments, work on signage to encourage participation and assist with collections.

“We as a company have a huge opportunity to make a significant impact on the amount of waste we produce annually,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs. “I want to compliment all the staff who will be overseeing the green initiatives as they come to fruition.

"Batavia Downs is looking forward to becoming more environmentally friendly and creating a more eco-conscious work environment.”

January 23, 2020 - 9:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, VTL Impact Aid, batavia, news, notify.

Another proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shift local revenue to the state coffers has come to light: Cuomo is proposing eliminating the local share of video terminal lottery money from facilities such as Batavia Downs. 

That would mean a $440,000 loss in revenue for the City of Batavia, $200,000 for Genesee County and $160,000 for the Town of Batavia.

Local officials are not pleased.

County Manager Jay Gsell has a laundry list of complaints about new mandated expenses in funding. This is just an extra burden for the county to shoulder.

Gsell said what he called a "bait and switch" on Aid to Municipalities funding where county sales tax proceeds will replace direct state aid, cuts in community college aid, and no reimbursement for early voting expenses.

"NYS counties will be gathering in Albany next Monday through Wednesday to gain more insight and develop resolution and position papers for the upcoming 2020 NYS legislative session," Gsell said. "The sentiment so far coming from the executive branch is disheartening and discouraging and fraught with peril from my perspective only three weeks into the new Genesee County budget year."

City Manager Marty Moore said the news of the VLT cuts comes at a bad time -- just as the city is wrapping up its own budget process.

"The loss of the VLT money is tough considering we balance the general fund to the penny," Moore said.  "Our feeling is obvious -- please put it back."

He called on state officials to enter into some dialogue and communication with local governments and listen to the impact the cuts will have locally.  

Since Batavia Downs doesn't pay any local property tax, the VLT money helps offset the expense of hosting the facility in the county, the town, and the city.  The facility needs support for crowd control at major events, police protection, fire protection, health and safety support, along with the roads that get people to and from the gaming casino.

"I do think it's important that our operations are supported by the money that comes along with it to help pay for some of the expense," Moore said.

In a budget statement, the governor's office justifies the cuts by the suggestion that local municipalities receive more in "VTL Impact Aid" (the formal name of the program) than it costs to host the facility.

This category of State aid was created to support assumed local service needs associated with hosting VLT facilities, but the revenue benefits of hosting a facility outweigh any associated costs. Further, not all municipalities that currently host VLT facilities receive aid through this program and the State does not provide additional "impact-type" aid for other types of facilities which may have similar local public service impacts as VLT facilities, including community colleges, SUNY campuses, and State office buildings. Accordingly, the Executive Budget eliminates VLT Aid outside of Yonkers, which is the only municipality receiving this aid to direct the funds to educational purposes.

It's been a point of pride for Western OTB officials for years that the facility supports the counties that oversee the facility with VTL money. 

Henry Wojtaszek, Western OTB CEO, said he will be closely monitoring the proposal.

"We work well with local governments and understand that these VLT aid monies substantially help them," Wojtaszek said. "We hope that local elected representatives will listen to the concerns of our host municipalities and work towards the best possible outcome."

Both State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer said they will work to protect the local share of VTL funds.

"This cut in aid is unacceptable," Ranzenhofer said. "At a time when the governor is proposing more unfunded mandates on our local governments, these reductions will have devastating impacts on our local taxpayers.  The governor is attempting to fill the budget deficit, that he created by overspending, through cutting crucial funding to Genesee County communities."

Hawley said, "The Governor needs to look toward actually cutting spending (that’s what real families and businesses do). We have a self-inflicted $6.2 Billion deficit (we spent that more than we took in). Why in the world would he look to take money that is shared with our local communities (which helps keep our local taxes lower than they would be without this money)? He’ll be hurting our local communities."

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