Local New York State politicians are speaking out against a report that Democratic legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul are considering changes to the structure of the board of directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, all Republicans, issued statements Thursday and today, indicating their opposition to what they believe is a proposal to eliminate individual counties’ authority to select WROTB directors.
Press release from Tenney:
“For 50 years, Western Regional Off Track Betting has shared operational control between 15 county governments and the Cities of Rochester and Buffalo. Under this established system, Western Regional OTB has brought jobs, tax revenue, and entertainment to Western New York. Over the past two years, Western OTB returned over $13.9 million to offset local county taxes across Western New York,
“County leaders throughout New York’s 24th district have reached out concerned about efforts to dismantle, politicize, and disadvantage rural communities within Western Regional OTB. When ‘Home Rule’ created the ownership of Western Regional OTB, member counties were given equal representation. NYS Senate Bill 7855 would strip rural counties of their 50-year established authority of this public-private sector partnership in favor of Governor Hochul and left-wing legislators in Albany.
“I stand with local leaders across the district in calling on Kathy Hochul to drop this misguided plan. It should be dead on arrival during budget negotiations in the Albany sewer. With a budget that is nearly four weeks late, a crime surge, and historic mass outmigration, Albany Democrats should leave Western OTB alone and focus on the real problems facing New Yorkers.”
Press release from Borrello:
“Although they already control the major levers of power in Albany, that hasn’t stopped Democrat One-Party Rule for brazenly and continually hunting for more opportunities to conquer and silence those outside their control. Their latest power grab targets Western Regional Off-Track Betting which has operated for five decades under a model of shared operational control between 15 county governments and the Cities of Rochester and Buffalo.
"However, changes under consideration right now would eliminate this cooperative structure of the past 50 years and replace it with a politicized board that would do Albany’s bidding. The voices of our rural counties would be silenced and the jobs and revenue they depend on put at risk.
"I am fiercely opposed to this last-minute attempt to slide this controversial proposal into the budget as the final details come together. It is another shameful attempt at rigging the system for political purposes and should be rejected.”
Statement from Hawley:
Hawley called the proposal "a power grab trying to diminish the influence of smaller, less populated counties."
"It's called Western New York OTB, not Erie County OTB," he said, responding to a text message from The Batavian. "This is similar to what Western New York complains about in the State Legislature. Excessive control by New York City. Shameful and wrong."
WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, contacted today, said he and Board Chair Richard Bianchi are monitoring the situation.
“We are waiting to find out what the actual language of the proposed legislation is before making an official statement,” Wojtaszek said.
Currently, the individuals serving on WROTB’s 17-member board, which represents its 17-member municipalities, are appointed by their county or city (Buffalo and Rochester) legislative bodies.