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November 10, 2020 - 3:07pm

The 11th month, November, on the 11th day is dedicated to commemorating the men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

As a country, we strive to honor and protect these individuals after returning to civilian life. While there are many mental health and addiction resources available throughout the nation, one issue usually remains hidden -- problem gambling.

It's a problem any time gambling causes financial, vocational, mental or interpersonal problems in one’s life, and it's an issue that affects roughly two million Americans. However, Veterans have elevated rates of problem gambling — at least twice the rate as the general adult population (Westermeyer et al., 2013).

Additionally, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that as many as 56,000 active duty members of the Armed Forces meet the criteria for gambling disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5, a diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year:

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement.
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling.
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble).
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed.
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses).
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity.
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling.
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.

Compared to the national population, problem gambling may not seem like a priority. However, problem gambling can impact up to 55 percent of the population. It is estimated that each individual struggling with problem gambling can impact up to 10 additional people.

On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions.

“About 50 percent of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17 percent of these individuals have attempted suicide,” (Moghaddam et al., 2015).

Problem gambling is also extremely underreported and low screening rates, especially in the military, remain a barrier. Some initial screening tools that are available include the “Lie Bet” and the “Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen,” which provide basic questions on gambling habits.

What can we do to better assist veterans and active duty members who might have a gambling problem?

•       Increase Screenings for Problem Gambling during routine visits and follow up.

•       Complete screenings after deployment and before reenlisting.

•       Offer education and information about gambling related harms. 

•       Provide a safe space to discuss need for support. 

•       Recommend alternatives to gambling on base and at program sites.

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, contact the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center at (716) 833-4274 or email us directly

September 1, 2020 - 12:28pm
posted by Press Release in news, steve hawley, Batavia Downs, gaming, VLT, Gambling, covid-19.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting the state allow casinos, Video Lottery Terminal gaming facilities and racetracks to open while following proper social distancing and COVID-19-protection protocols.

Hawley points out how other ventures have been allowed to open that often draw more risk in enclosed spaces compared to casinos, despite not bringing in the same revenue the state desperately needs to pick itself up.

“With the economy continuing to struggle, I see the unwillingness to allow casinos and other gaming ventures to open and follow appropriate protocol as nothing but hindering the state’s further economic recovery,” Hawley said.

“New York is losing millions in tax revenue by making this decision, not to mention keeping a sizeable job market from opening in the rural areas of the state that could use support at this time. We need to open these casinos, gaming sites and racetracks now.”

If you or someone you know struggles with a gambling addiction, know that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to fight it alone. For help and resources on how to combat gambling addiction, visit https://oasas.ny.gov/problem-gambling.

May 14, 2018 - 3:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, news, sports, Gambling.

There is some preliminary work to be done, including changes in state law, before Batavia Downs can start offering legal sports betting but Western OTB President Henry F. Wojtaszek said the racetrack is eager to offer a type of gaming customers have long wanted locally.

"It’s clearly something our customers clearly want," Wojtaszek said. "We've seen it in our petitions and our surveys."

State Senator John J. Bonacic has introduced Senate Bill 7900 to amend that state gaming laws would allow sports betting at the state's existing four casinos and Wojtaszek said he expects Batavia Downs to be included in the legal changes. 

Batavia Downs, under an agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Seneca Nation, cannot call itself a casino and cannot offer table games like a casnio but Wojtaszek said he doesn't anticipate a similar problem with sports betting.

"That should not be a problem," Wojtaszek said. "There has never been any prohibition and there have been no exclusive rights granted to the Senecas regarding sports betting so I don't anticipate an issue."

The possibility of sports wagering at Batavia Downs is possible because the Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that prevented states from offering and regulating sports betting as each state saw fit.

New York has long been ready to take advantage of any potential change in federal law and Batavia has been preparing for the idea right along. They've identified an area on the second floor as a sports betting parlor and Wojtaszek said he anticipates sports wagering kiosks in Rush 34 and other select spots in the facility.

Sports betting will not only appeal to current Batavia Downs customers, Wojtaszek said, but also to a whole new set of customers who will appreciate a good, safe, legal atmosphere for sports wagering.

"It's definitely part of the experience that people can come in with their friends, eat, drink, and watch a game and place a wager on it," Wojtaszek said. "There are people already into that and now they will have a nice legal spot to do it, which will only enhance the experience."

May 16, 2014 - 12:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, Gambling, Western OTB.

Press release:

In a letter to Monroe County Legislator Justin Wilcox, Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. announced that the Seneca Nation will no longer pursue the siting of a casino development project in Henrietta or Monroe County at this time. Subsequently, representatives of Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation expressed appreciation to the people of the region for voicing their opposition to the proposal.

In the letter to Wilcox, Snyder stated, “We will not engage in the demanding and complex process required to get a casino approved pursuant to the laws and regulations governing Indian gaming without the support of the local community and New York State.”

To date, 17 towns and 11 counties, as well as the 19-member Inter-County Association of Western New York, have taken formal action opposing the expansion of casino gaming in Henrietta and Monroe County. In addition, 15 members of the State Legislature from across Western and Central New York have publicly expresses their opposition to the proposed expansion of casino gaming in the region. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that public support is critical when weighing the decision to expand casino gaming in the state. 

“From businesses, church groups, civic organizations, and everyday people from across the region to state leaders and local municipalities, the opposition to a casino in Monroe County has been overwhelming,” said Michael P. Nolan, executive vice president/COO of WROTB. “Clearly the Seneca Nation has heard the will of the people and responded accordingly.”

While acknowledging the Seneca Nation’s cessation of its efforts to expand casino gaming in Monroe County at this time, Nolan understands that the Senecas could reinitiate their efforts at a later date.

“If in the future the Seneca Nation should move forward with a proposal to expand casino gaming in Monroe County, we will once again emphatically oppose such a plan,” Nolan said. “The people of Monroe County recognize the fact that a Seneca-owned casino would adversely impact the local community and give the Seneca Nation a competitive advantage that will be damaging to businesses, both large and small, across the region. That is something that the people of this community are unwilling to accept, and they resoundingly made that point.”

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia. WROTB owns and operates 29 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility. Since its inception, Western OTB has generated more than $215 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of those participating municipalities.

August 20, 2013 - 5:07pm

Rochester media is buzzing today about a purported announcement by the Seneca Nation looking to open a casino in Henrietta.

WHAM 13 is among the stations reporting that the tribe wants to expand to the Rochester suburb.

Michael D. Kane, president and CEO of Western Region OTB, said this afternoon, there will be no Seneca-owned casino in Henrietta, at least not any time soon.

"Under the current statutory scheme, they will not be able to put a casino in Western New York," Kane said. "Without a statutory change, which isn't likely to happen in today's environment, they cannot do what they're looking to do."

Kane said he isn't really sure what prompted the Seneca's to announce an interest in a casino in Henrietta when something like that happening at this time is more of a dream than even a hope.

"If casino gaming became regulated in New York State rather than prohibited, then perhaps they could fashion some agreement with the federal government to do it," Kane said. "From my point of view, there's no change in enforcement from today than there was yesterday."

Western OTB runs Batavia Downs Racetrack and Casino which, under terms of an agreement between the Senecas and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is blocked from expanding into a full-fledged casino.

According to WHAM, the Senecas have hired Flaum Management to "coordinate the development" of a casino.

"This is an exciting day," CEO David Flaum said. "I am profoundly grateful for Seneca Nation for choosing me. I hope to assist them in bringing a casino here."

Kane said Flaum has been a consultant for the Senecas for 12 years.

Also, see the Rochester Business Journal: Seneca Nation to work with Flaum on gaming, hospitality development here.

March 16, 2012 - 12:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, Seneca Nation, Gambling.

It looks like Batavia Downs is a long shot to expand into a full-blown Vegas-style casino with table games and expanding gambling options.

The NYS Legislature took a big step yesterday toward opening up so-called racinos to more casino games, but capped the number of race tracks that can expand at seven.

Western Regional OTB board member Dick Siebert told WBTA that he's very concerned that Batavia Downs is being excluded from the expansion.

“Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs are the closest raceways to the Senecas' casinos (in Niagara Falls and Allegany), and they’re the ones putting the heat on the state,” Siebert points out. “So I’ve got a strange but very sound feeling that we’re the two being targeted.”

The seven target locations have not been disclosed.

The Senecas believe they have an exclusive lock on gambling in New York and the legislature may have caved to pressure from the Senecas by excluding Buffalo and Batavia from the expansion.

“They’re behind it,” Siebert said. “They’ve got money, and they’re throwing it around. They don’t want the competition. But not having Batavia Downs be a full casino hurts Western New York a lot more than what might happen to the Senecas.

“I’ll probably get myself in trouble to say it – but it’s the truth,” Siebert added.

Michael Kane, CEO of the Western Regional OTB remains hopeful, however.

“I don’t think it takes Batavia Downs out of the mix at all,” Kane says. “I think the number was just negotiated between the governor and the two houses.”

October 8, 2009 - 10:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business, Gambling.

In a year in which New York has seen growth in lottery revenue, Batavia Downs is among the most successful video gaming facilities in the state, reports the Ithica Journal:

The largest was a 10 percent revenue increase at Batavia Downs Race Track, which is owned by Western Regional Off-Track Betting. Western OTB was criticized when it bought the track in the late 1990s, but the success of the terminals has offset losses on the racing side, allowing Western OTB in recent years to return profits to the counties it serves.

Western OTB has had about $250,000 in losses at its betting branches this year, but has had a profit of about $1.5 million at the video-lottery facility, which has 605 machines, officials said.

Overall in New York, video lottery terminal sales grew 3.3 percent in the first half of the fiscal year. Mega Millions sales were up 37 percent.

The trend across most of the rest of the nation for state-run lotteries has been downward.

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