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Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

March 23, 2023 - 12:47pm


Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials are exploring an expansion of the Hotel at Batavia Downs, the 84-bed luxury inn that the public benefit company purchased from ADK Hospitality LLC of Buffalo in mid-2021.

“We’re taking a hard look to determine if we are going to do it, if it’s the right time and if the cost is right. We’re taking a cautious approach to make sure that it is something that we really need to do,” said Scott Kiedrowski, WROTB vice president/operations, following today’s board of directors meeting.

Kiedrowski and director Edward Morgan, chairperson of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee, reported on a meeting with David Hart, president of Hart Hotels, which runs the facility.

“Mr. Hart, along with Rick Likus (hotel general manager), spoke to the board about the operation is 2022, which was the first full year of ownership by Western Regional,” Kiedrowski said. “Our numbers are significantly headed in the right direction – very robust.

“The rooms are sold out on a regular basis; we have a lot of traffic coming, so we’re very pleased with the financials and his (Hart’s) report to the board of directors on just how well the hotel is doing.”

Kiedrowski said that expansion, if and when it was approved, would likely add to the north end of the existing hotel.

“We’re trying to see if the lobby should move and the extent of the expansion,” he said, mentioning that 42 more rooms are being considered.

Board Chair Richard Bianchi said he will select three directors to serve on a committee with senior management and hotel staff to look into expanding the hotel.

WROTB directors voted for the $8 million purchase in February 2021.

At the time, Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach said the corporation would be able to utilize 20-year tax-exempt bonds to project a savings of $600,000 while bundling the refinancing of a balloon payment due in October 2023 with the hotel purchase expenditure.

In November 2016, Batavia Downs Gaming and members of ADK Hospitality LLC, the hotel ownership team, cut the ribbon on the hotel. ADK Hospitality bought land from WROTB in March 2015 and invested $7.5 million to build the facility.

In other developments, directors:

  • Approved a resolution to install floor and wall base at the 34 Rush restaurant/bar, contracting with WNY Tile & Sone Corp. of North Tonawanda for an amount not to exceed $19,139.

The expense will be covered by a portion of a $1.2 million insurance settlement stemming from a flood on the second floor when a pipe burst in September 2022, Kiedrowski said.

“The water did leak downstairs into 34 Rush, and there is a lot of remodeling going on in that area so we decided to replace the floor that did receive some of that water,” he said. “We are expanding the kitchen, which is just a normal course of business to make it bigger. So, while doing that we figured we would also take care of the floor.”

  • Approved the purchase of a recreational trailer for use by performers during the Rockin’ The Downs Concert Series from Elizabeth Marino of Florida for $29,000.

Kiedrowski said a concert promoter informed management that the 2014 Forest River Salem Villa destination trailer would be available for purchase, thus fulfilling a need that previously was supplied at no charge by local companies.

“It’s for the performers to use right off stage,” he said. “It is well maintained. Now we have two of them and they are used for the acts.”

The board also approved paying up to $325,000 for the various bands and performers this summer. The eight-week concert series kicks off on June 23 with the Almost Queen tribute band.

Photo: 2016 file photo by Howard Owens

March 23, 2023 - 11:39am

morgan_1.jpgThe chairperson of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee this morning urged the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors and senior management to take a proactive approach toward the placement of an outdoor smoking area at the Park Road establishment.

Edward Morgan (photo at right), who represents Orleans County on the 17-member board, said the powers-that-be at Batavia Downs Gaming “need to move ahead” in case the smoking waiver now in force is terminated.

Currently, Batavia Downs Gaming has an indoor enclosed smoking room only.

“The two-year waiver could be gone any day,” Morgan said at today’s board meeting. “We need to be prepared, even if it’s just a small heated outside area with no machines in it.”

Morgan said he visited the Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo recently to check out its smoking accommodations. He reported that a 50- by 150-foot area, featuring about 150 gaming machines, has been installed outside – “exposed to all the elements."

“From the looks of it, people seem to use it to smoke and then go back inside to play,” he said, adding that he saw about a dozen people in the area during his midweek midday stop.

Morgan pointed to Batavia Downs Gaming surveys that reveal “how important it is to some of our patrons to be able to smoke at a machine.”

Scott Kiedrowski, vice president/operations, said that although a tri-county commission has approved a waiver for another two years, “there’s always a fear that something might change in the health department regulations or state regulations and we could lose our smoking designation.”

“A lot of casinos in the area and throughout New York and other states might have some stringent smoking requirements,” he said. “They have some outdoor areas, called smoke gardens, if you will, that are heated and covered with games outside … to have the ability to have smoking on the property but not inside the building.”

Morgan said it would be prudent for the board and management to start looking at options, including the location of an outdoor smoking area.

“Even if it was outdoors and heated, with no machines,” he reiterated.

March 17, 2023 - 12:13pm

henry_w_1.jpgWhile acknowledging the difference between private enterprises and not-for-profit businesses, the chairman of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors on Thursday defended the awarding of $30,000 in bonuses to the public benefit company’s senior management team.

At its January meeting, the board unanimously (by a 13-0 vote) passed a resolution to award “a discretionary bonus” to President/Chief Executive Officer HenryWojtaszek (photo at left) in the amount of $12,000 and to Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach (photo at right), Vice President/Operations Scott Kiedrowski and Vice President/Administration William White in the amount of $6,000 each.

Board Chairman Richard Bianchi said the bonuses were justified in light of leadership’s role in guiding the corporation to record revenues and earnings distributions to its 17 member municipalities in 2022.

According to figures supplied by WROTB, credits played (on the gaming floor) topped 1 billion for the first time ever, with net win (revenue) hitting a record $75 million. From that, nearly $8.5 million was earmarked for distribution to the municipalities – up more than $2.5 million from 2021.

“Determining executive compensation in a public benefit corporation can be challenging as you need to balance paying for performance against the fact that we must be mindful of public dollars,” Bianchi said. “But, we are also in a very competitive gaming industry. We have to compete for executive talent.”

Bianchi revealed that the board hired an outside compensation firm, Burke Group of Rochester, to review the pay scale and make recommendations.


“They found, based on revenue, responsibility and successful performance, that our team was below the median in pay in the industry,” he said. “Burke made suggestions that we are following, which we think are both fair and reasonable.”

He noted that the WROTB senior management team “is one that would be prized by any privately held company and would be proud to have.”

“In the private sector, these people all would be $250,000 to $500,000 per year executives,” he offered. “Though they earn a fraction of that, our bonus plan is a way to acknowledge their incredible contribution to our success and do so cost-effectively.”

Salaries for the four, as approved by the board, for 2023 are as follows:

  • Wojtaszek, who started with the company in 2010 as general counsel before taking over as CEO in 2016, $264,898.
  • Leach, who was hired in May 1989 as a staff accountant and worked her way up to CFO, becoming the first female officer at WROTB, $221,582.
  • White, who became VP/Administration in 2012 following nine years as a director and a year as VP/Human Resources, $155,168.
  • Kiedrowski, who became VP/Operations in 2016 after serving on the board for seven years, $155,168.

Wojtaszek’s salary has increased by 38 percent over the past two years but is not among the top 25 WNY CEO salaries, despite WROTB generating revenues greater than most of the other businesses, which are primarily in the healthcare sector.

Wojtaszek said that all 392 WROTB employees, plus the 20 who work for Hart Hotels but are paid by WROTB, have benefited financially as a result of the corporation’s successful year.

He disclosed that he approved merit raises to 20 employees and bonuses to two Hotel at Batavia Downs employees. In negotiations, union employees received a 4 percent raise – “our highest yet,” he noted.

“We’ve established a brand name that is synonymous to quality and great customer service,” Wojtaszek said. “And it’s all because of the hard work of our employees.”

Batavia Downs Gaming, Hotel at Batavia Downs and harness track is the hub of the organization, which also has off-track betting locations throughout Western New York. Most recently, Wojtaszek oversaw the Park Road Reconstruction Project, which features numerous enhancements on the property, and the purchase and refinancing of the hotel.

On another front, inquiries into certain practices at WROTB continue, Wojtaszek said, adding that management and the board are cooperating fully with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

“We’ve given them any and all documents requested and, beyond that, have made policy and procedural changes per their recommendations,” he said, referring to the state Comptroller’s probe into gold-plated health insurance for directors, suites at Buffalo Bills and Sabres games and reimbursement for using company vehicles. “We brought in a regulatory compliance firm – consultants who recommended how to improve our operation, and we have followed that advice.”

In December, the board approved a $20,000 contract with Personius Melber LLP of Buffalo to represent employees who have been questioned by investigators.

Reached by telephone yesterday, Rodney Personius said the employees in question “are not targets or subjects of any investigation but those who the organization (WROTB) wanted to be available for interviews.”

“OTB thought it would be appropriate for them to have a lawyer,” he added.

Personius said he did not wish to comment on what was discussed in the interviews, noting that between five and 10 employees were interviewed.

A lawsuit filed by an attorney representing Michael Nolan, a former WROTB chief operating officer, was dismissed due to time restraints last year but reportedly will be refiled.

Nolan is claiming that his federal First Amendment rights were violated when he alleged that he was retaliated against by WROTB leadership for speaking to federal agencies about alleged improper practices at the Batavia-based corporation.

The attorney representing WROTB issued a statement today supporting Wojtaszek’s contention that the corporation has cooperated with authorities.

“Since 2018, my firm instruction from the WROTB board of directors has been to cooperate with all agency requests for information and document subpoenas,” said Terrence Connors, partner, Connors LLP of Buffalo. “We have accomplished that goal, and no state or federal agency has ever advised that WROTB or any of the officers or directors is the target of any investigation for wrongdoing.

“In addition, WROTB has voluntarily engaged a prestigious compliance company staffed by compliance experts and a former FBI agent to review practices and policies and implement any necessary changes.  While there have been rumors and speculation, WROTB continues to return record profits to the 15 counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo.”

February 23, 2023 - 12:35pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp..

If and when iGaming comes to New York State, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials say they want a piece of the action.

Speaking about the corporation’s lobbying efforts in Albany, President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said that he is keeping abreast of a bill that would allow iGaming in New York.

“Six states actually have it already and they’re reporting record levels (of revenue),” he said during this morning’s board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

An internet search of iGaming reveals that it’s an increasingly popular form of mobile betting or gambling that includes Casino games, real money slot games, sports betting and horse race betting. Per Transparency Market Research, the iGaming sector is set to generate $100 billion by 2024.

“iGaming is something that’s being proposed by State Senator (Joseph) Abbaddo (Jr.), who’s the chair of the Senate Gaming Committee,” Wojtaszek said. “He’s submitted it as a bill and it allows for mobile or remote gaming on your computer or on your phone.”

Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs Gaming would be asking to be included in this opportunity, along with Finger Lakes and Buffalo Raceway.

“We would be looking to establish an online platform, as well as other casinos across the state, so that we can be competitive within the industry,” he said, noting that WROTB’s Batavia Bets interactive online platform covers harness race betting only.

Currently, the other six states that permit iGaming are New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, he said.

Abbaddo, a Democrat who represents the 15th District (Queens), recently spoke about the bill, which moved forward into the State Assembly on Feb. 3.

He cited projections that iGaming would surpass mobile sports betting (which already is legal in New York State) and urged his colleagues to pass the bill into law.

“Every year we don’t do iGaming in New York, if you do the math, there’s roughly $4 billion lost – if you think of it that way; revenue lost – and lost to another state and to the illegal market,” he was quoted as saying.

Abbaddo said his goal was to get the bill passed by the end of this year’s legislative session.

In other developments:

  • WROTB directors approved the promotion of Danielle Fleming to the Director of Human Resources position, a move up from her current role as payroll supervisor.

“We had three excellent candidates from within who applied and Danielle is the one who has been recommended for hire,” Wojtaszek said, adding that she started in the marketing department before moving to payroll. “She is very smart and very talented and we’re glad to have her here.”

  • Batavia Downs harness racing’s handle in January and February 2023 represented a 35 percent increase from the handle at Buffalo Raceway for those two months in 2022. There had been no January-February racing at Batavia Downs previous to this year, when WROTB officials reached an agreement with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to conduct a slate two or three days a week during those months.

Wojtaszek called the limited meet a “great success” and will be exploring continuing it in 2024 depending on the WNYHHA’s position.

  • Directors voted to enter into a contract with PPR Energy to provide the infrastructure needed to prepare for the installation of 16 electric vehicle charging stations at Batavia Downs Gaming.

Wojtaszek said the stations would be built in two locations – 12 of them in the general parking lot and four in the valet parking area. Right now, there are two EV charging stations in the valet parking lot.

  • WNY Tile and Stone Corp. of North Tonawanda has been hired to install new floor and wall tile on the second floor in the restroom area at Batavia Downs Gaming and the same in the Park Place banquet room and boardroom on the first floor at a total cost of $160,000.

It was reported that the expense would be covered by insurance, stemming from flooding at the facility several months ago.

Additionally, directors approved a $69,900 contract with Painters Plus Home Decorating of North Tonawanda as the lowest bidder to paint the 67 rooms at the Hotel at Batavia Downs.

  • Directors voted to purchase a block of eight tickets with parking from Live Nation for the 2023 concert series at Darien Lake at an amount not to exceed $30,000.
February 23, 2023 - 11:42am

Pending verification by the public benefit company’s outside auditing firm, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. generated a record $8.4 million in earnings and surcharge for its 17 member municipalities in 2022.

WROTB Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach, reporting at this morning’s board of directors meeting at the Park Road facility, put the total earnings and surcharge distribution number for last year at $8,454,261 – an increase of $2,661,077 from 2021.

“Since the corporation’s inception – we started in May of 1974 – this is the highest earnings’ distribution ever paid out to our municipalities,” Leach said.

When asked to explain the 46 percent jump from the previous year, Leach mentioned branch consolidation, the Hotel at Batavia Downs and the company’s ongoing marketing campaigns.

“On the branch side, we minimized our losses through closures and consolidations, so that helped, and then on the Batavia Downs Gaming side, one of the best additions is the hotel – because it’s such a great marketing tool,” she said. “We can get our patrons in and then let them enjoy their experience, including the free play (vouchers) and the food coupons, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

“Plus, all of our events here help contribute and, as always, we value our employees the most and we’re providing good customer service. And (Marketing Director) Ryan’s (Hasenauer) marketing efforts are a big part of it as well.”

Genesee County’s share for 2022 is at $178,732, about $50,000 more than Orleans and Wyoming counties’ amount. In 2021, Genesee received $123,409.

December 2022 numbers show $642 in surcharge while fourth-quarter earnings indicate that $26,701 will go into Genesee County coffers.

The corporation distributes earnings and surcharge to 15 Western New York counties plus the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said the historic dollar amounts represent “a lot of hard work, great marketing strategies, great events and the strength of the hotel.”

“It’s really become a destination,” he said. “We provide, we believe, the best customer service in the industry. We hear it constantly on the floor, so it is no surprise that we had such a banner year … and we’re very happy to share that with our municipalities and give that money back.”

January 19, 2023 - 12:49pm

otb_leadership_2023_a.jpg“Leadership matters” and that, according to the directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., is why Richard Bianchi of Monroe County is continuing on as the public benefit company’s chairman of the board.

“It’s my honor and pleasure to nominate (Bianchi) as chair because leadership matters,” said Director Dennis Bassett, who represents the City of Rochester, as he wholeheartedly endorsed the Monroe County delegate for a 13th consecutive one-year term. “He has taken us through tough times and through it all, I have learned that leadership matters.”

Bassett, speaking at this morning’s board meeting at the Park Road facility, said that Bianchi has the corporation’s “best interest at heart” while making the tough decisions and presenting a vision that has resulted in the purchase of a hotel, expanded summer concerts and providing exhibit space for public events.

“We’re experiencing our best years in OTB history and it is the direct result of the leadership of our board chair,” Bassett continued. “There has been sniping at the heels of the chair and this organization, but we have persevered.”

Director Richard Ricci (Seneca County) seconded the motion – noting that Bianchi “gives his heart and soul to this place” – before the board voted unanimously in favor of Bianchi.

That vote was followed by a unanimous vote to keep Edward Morgan (Orleans County) as the vice chair, a position the Murray resident has held for four years.

Bianchi thanked the board for its support, praising the directors’ work as well as the job done by WROTB officers, management and rank-and-file employees.

“The current board is more engaged than ever,” he said. “Let’s just keep up the great work.”

WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek echoed Bassett’s sentiments.

“Under Mr. Bianchi’s leadership, we have really good morale here with the workers, we've resolved a lot of the labor issues … and the business is at an all-time high,” he said. “And I think the outlook for the future is very bright. The physical plant is in great shape and WROTB is in the best shape it has ever been in.”

In other developments from today’s board meeting:

  • Directors voted to contract with Mind Squad Consulting LLC of Orchard Park for up to $75,000 for training and professional development for WROTB’s key officers, starting with Wojtaszek and VP/Administration William White.

“Bill and I will enroll initially and then we will see the results of that type of training. If we think it is beneficial, we will continue on and then we’ll send our other two officers (Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach and VP/Operations Scott Kiedrowski),” Wojtaszek said.

He said the leadership team has done its “due diligence” regarding Mind Squad Consulting, with the goal to “have us operating at the highest efficiencies that we can.” He said the training will consist of in-person and virtual sessions, lasting up to eight months.

  • The board authorized the purchase of a suite at Highmark Stadium for Buffalo Bills’ games for the next four seasons in the amounts not to exceed $109,000 for 2023, $113,000 for 2024, $117,000 for 2025 and $117,000 for 2026.

The resolution states that the expenditure is in line with WROTB’s “ongoing patron attraction and retention program … to provide entertainment event tickets for a certain level of our patrons as well as for special promotions.”

In a related move, directors approved spending $51,878 with Mark-It-Smart of Santa Ana, Calif., for Buffalo Bills’ clogs, coaster sets, backpacks and coolers to be used as promotional items.

  • The board extended a contract with Kim Crawford to provide consulting services in respect to the surfacing and banking of the harness horse racing track for the 2023 winter meet that is currently taking place.

WROTB will pay Crawford an additional $21,000 to the previously agreed upon contract of $65,000 for 2023.

  • Leach reported that $49,780 in surcharge from November activity will be distributed to the corporation’s member municipalities.

Photo: From left, Henry Wojtaszek, Richard Bianchi and Edward Morgan. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

December 1, 2022 - 2:17pm

If it makes financial sense, the Hotel at Batavia Downs on Park Road will be adding 42 rooms in 2024.

Henry Wojtaszek, chief executive officer/president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., said Thursday his team has been consulting with Hart Hotels, the company that manages the current 84-room luxury hotel.

“We’re going through the process, conducting engineering studies to see if it will be cost-effective,” Wojtaszek said after the morning's WROTB board of directors meeting. “The plan is to report back to the board in January.”

The hotel operated at 70 percent capacity in November, Wojtaszek said.

“Business has picked up,” he said. “Plus, we’re sold out for New Year’s Eve and have a big waiting list.”

Wojtaszek said that Batavia Downs Gaming’s New Year’s Eve party will include guests staying at the hotel as well as other patrons.

In other developments from today’s meeting:

  • The board approved a contract extension with Don Hoover, director of live racing and race secretary, for January and February 2023 at a rate of $12,000 per month.

Hoover’s salary will be paid by the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association per an agreement with WROTB as a condition of conducting 15 live racing dates in January and February.

Racing will take place on Mondays and Thursdays in those two months, starting on Jan. 9, with a 3 p.m. post time.

Directors also extended a pact with Mark Lowe for live racing consulting services from Jan, 1 through March 31 at a rate of $3,500 per month.

Wojtaszek said Lowe is assisting the corporation in navigating through the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s racetrack safety program and anti-doping and medication control program (with the latter going into effect next month).

  • Wojtaszek announced that the 2023 Batavia Downs Summer Concert Series will feature eight concerts on Friday nights, starting on June 23 and ending on Aug. 11. He said the specific acts will be announced next week.

The board approved contracting with Canal Concerts, Inc., of Buffalo, to provide supervision of the series, including the hiring of bartenders, security and other employees.

Canal Concerts has played a role in the productions since 2017, Wojtaszek said. The approved contract will pay the company $5,500 per concert.

  • Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas will continue as WROTB’s spokesperson for two more years, thanks to a contract that will pay Mariacher Thomas LLC $120,000 through Dec. 31, 2024. The terms of the agreement have not changed, Wojtaszek said.

Thomas has represented Batavia Downs Gaming at events, promotions and advertising campaigns since 2013.

Wojtaszek said that the food service portion of the gaming facility’s 34 Rush will be closed for 10 to 14 days in early January for the installation of a new kitchen hood. Food will be provided by Fortune's and Homestretch Grill.

The board authorized paying $52,700 to Crosby Brownlie, Inc., of Rochester, the lowest bidder, for the work.

  • The board voted to spend $240,000 over the next 12 months for the services of three lobbying firms.

The one-year contracts are with Upstate Strategic Advisors, LLC, of Buffalo, represented by Sam Hoyt ($3,500 per month); Mercury Public Affairs LLC of Albany, represented by Patrick McCarthy ($8,000 per month), and Bolton-St. Johns of New York City and Albany, represented by George DiRosa ($8,500 per month).

Wojtaszek said the consultants provide expertise in the areas of proposed legislation in Albany, communication with local municipalities and in public relations.

December 1, 2022 - 1:03pm

With one month remaining, 2022 is shaping up to be another record year for Batavia Downs Gaming as actual earnings are well ahead of management’s expectations.

Speaking this morning following Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s board meeting at the Park Road facility, Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach said the outlook for distributions to the public benefit company’s 17 municipalities is extremely positive.

“Combined earnings and surcharges could very well be anywhere between $8.5 million and $9 million in distributions this year,” Leach said. “It’s a record year.”

That number represents a difference of more than $3 million from what Leach and WROTB officers projected in their 2022 operating plan. She said their conservative “budget” was crafted after taking several factors into consideration.

“Well, we looked at a couple of things,” she said. “On the pari-mutuel (harness horse racing) side was the (potential) impact of sports betting being legalized in New York State. And on the other side, the gaming side, we had the Park Road (Reconstruction) Project, and we didn’t know the effects of the road being torn up.”

Leach also said management wasn’t sure if COVID-19 would rear its ugly head again.

Looking ahead, the 2023 operating plan is calling for $6 million in revenue distribution to the municipalities -- $5,381,976 in operating earnings and $618,734 generated from surcharge.

“For 2023, we have factored in an additional decrease in our pari-mutuel wagering. That's part of it,” she said. “Also, because of the volume of business we're experiencing here at Batavia Downs, we need additional workforce to handle the increased volume.”

She said next year’s plan – which she considers “a fluid and working document” – does not call for any OTB branch closures but, conversely, includes the addition of four E-Z Bet locations.

When it was mentioned that actual figures could exceed projections in 2023 as well, Leach said, “That’s what we're going to try to do.”

Leach reported that $54,370 will be distributed to municipalities, including Genesee County, from October’s activity.

Previously: WROTB preliminary 2023 operating plan shows a 15.9 percent increase in distributions to municipalities

November 16, 2022 - 3:01pm

leach.jpgIf all goes as projected, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.-member municipalities will receive about 16 percent more in distributions in 2023.

That was one of the key points shared by WROTB Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach this morning at a 2023 operating plan workshop for the public benefit company’s board of directors at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

Leach (photo at right) said that preliminary numbers indicate that, overall, net revenue available to the 17 municipalities, which include Genesee County, will increase by about $800,000 to $5.8 million – a 15.9 percent jump. Those figures are based on net revenue before post-employment benefits.

She also predicted that the amount of money handled at the corporation’s nine branches will go up by $850,000 to $47.4 million while Batavia Downs’ net win will increase by $3 million to $77.5 million, and intertrack wagering and live racing handle will be remain unchanged.

Moreover, Leach said that Batavia Downs’ net gain from operations will increase by about $375,000 to $6.6 million – with net losses from operation decreasing by about $409,000 to $1.4 million and branch retained surcharge revenue increasing by about $16,000 to $619,000.

The surcharge consists of a 5 percent tax that the corporation collects from pari-mutuel (horse racing) winning tickets and, in timely fashion, distributes to its member municipalities and other counties in New York State that have a race track.

Leach emphasized that the operating plan has not been finalized and the numbers could change prior to a vote by the board at its Dec. 1 meeting.

“This is still a work in progress,” she said. “The board, ultimately, will either vote to approve or disapprove the recommendations of management that really will come to fruition in the final plan that will be sent out in summary form to members next week."

Nine of the 17 board members attended today’s workshop, including a new member, Vincent Horrigan, who has been appointed to represent Chautauqua County. Richard Siebert, Genesee County’s director, was not at the non-mandatory meeting.

The plan, which projects the goals of the corporation’s components in monetary terms, is “a collective effort between officers, department heads and staff,” Leach said, adding that the packet features historical data from 2021 and 2022 and anticipated 2023 numbers.

WROTB’s major segments are gaming, of course; live racing and intertrack wagering, food and beverage, and The Hotel at Batavia Downs.

“Keep in mind those two major revenue sources, which are the pari-mutuel wagering and the video gaming activity, are based on our patrons,” she said. “That’s why we say this is a fluid, working document. It is a guideline for the corporation in which to maneuver in the next year.”

She said part of management’s responsibility is to “react” to situations and trends, such as snowstorms that keep customers away from the branches and Park Road, inflation, rising product costs or public health concerns such as COVID-19 – “and I hope we don’t have to deal with that again,” she noted.

“We have adjusted some of our expenses upward … such as the utilities or any of our cost of goods, our food costs,” Leach said. “And, conversely, forecast what are our increases in our … product to end user, the patrons, the customers. So, there's a lot that goes in to putting this plan together. Not only the historical trends and current trends, but where we are going as well. And where do we want to be? And how do we achieve … our net win goals for the next year.”


Leach said the nine OTB parlors employ 31 people (about 10 percent of the total WROTB employee count) and are projected to generate about $760,000 in surcharge in 2023. This segment, however, has not been profitable in recent years – and the 2023 operating plan indicates a net loss of about $1.2 million.

When asked by Director Dennis Bassett (City of Rochester) if it might be beneficial to eliminate the branch operation, Leach and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said management has downsized that part of the corporation in recent years.

During the OTB parlor heyday, the corporation operated more than 30 branches.

Branch wagering did increase during the six months that Batavia Downs Gaming was closed due to COVID, Leach pointed out.

“That’s when the OTBs and Batavia Bets (online wagering) became invaluable to the corporation,” she said. “Batavia Bets stayed open and then our OTBs opened up at the end of May (2020) and beginning of June. So, at least we had money coming in the door.”

She also spoke of the importance of the EZ Bet locations (in restaurants and bars), which feature TVs, simulcast equipment and terminals for wagering without the overhead of paying staff members.


Leach said that credits played into the VLTs and credits won make up the “net win” – which is projected to increase from $74.5 million to $77.5 million in 2023.

“So, our total gross operating income increased just about $2.7 million (per the preliminary plan),” she said, adding that a revision is coming due to a decision to reduce the number of summer concerts from 10 to eight in 2023, and upon receipt of the hotel operating plan.

WROTB pays 49 percent of the net win to the state Division of Lottery, and that is expected to increase by $1.5 million, Leach said. Operating expenses also are going up, with the biggest increases to the horse racing purses, breeders’ fund and to the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association.

All told, net gain from Batavia Downs Gaming operations is projected to increase by about $374,000, she said.


Leach said that in 2023, management (per information received from department heads) will be assigning 65 percent of the $6.7 million General & Administrative expense to the Batavia Downs Gaming side of the operation and 35 percent of that amount to the off-track betting (racing, intertrack wagering, branches) side of the operation.

This is up from a 51/39 percent split in 2021 and 2022.

“And it makes sense because in the past two years we have closed eight brick-and-mortar facilities,” Leach said. “This procedure and how the corporation allocates those funds have been approved by Western’s outside audit firm. It’s sound reasoning the way it's done.”


Leach said she just received a report from The Hotel at Batavia Downs, which is operated by an outside company.

“Those numbers will be incorporated into the final plan,” she said. “It was an addition of 92 rooms, which increased the bottom line by about $12,000.”

October 27, 2022 - 1:32pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp..

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. management and union employees at the public benefit company’s branch locations have agreed to a pay contract that will give the workers at 3.5 percent raise for 2022.

The agreement was announced this morning at the WROTB board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek said it is a three-year pact extending through 2023. The supervisory and non-supervisory branch employees will get the 3.5 percent retroactively back to the first of the year.

The percentage for 2023 has yet to be determined, he said, but noted that the union employees will receive the same pay increase that the rest of the corporation’s employees receive.

“It has been a few years since they've been negotiating and this contract will take them to the end of next year -- to the end of 2023,” he said. “We're very happy and excited to have it completed. And we look forward to a great working relationship.”

Wojtaszek said changes in the contract focus on some work rules related to branch operations and the amount of employee contribution to the health insurance premium.

Each side has “ironed out some of the contribution limits for health insurance,” he said, adding that the union agreed to paying 5 percent of the cost for health insurance.

WROTB officials have been looking at the health insurance issue in recent months, stemming from a report from the New York State Comptroller’s Office and questions from Western New York lawmakers about the “gold plated” coverage given to the board members.

Wojtaszek said there is a good chance the 5 percent contribution will be put in place for all of the company’s employees.

“We certainly intend to suggest that and make that as a recommendation,” he said. “It’s a reasonable amount to have. Again, I think the best part about it is that we were looking to have everybody in the company (including directors) contribute for their health care.”

He credited VP/Administration William White, Payroll Supervisor Danielle Fleming and consultant Carl Monti for their work in reaching the agreement, which will affect about 60 supervisory and non-supervisory employees.

WROTB has pared its branch operations significantly in recent years. Currently, there are nine “brick and mortar” locations, plus Dial-A-Bet and Intertrack Wagering at Batavia Downs.

The Batavian has reached out to Antonella Rotilio, labor relations representative for the Long Island-based United Public Service Employees Union, for comment.

In other developments:

  • Wojtaszek mentioned “the great curb appeal for the public” when asked to comment about the completion of the Park Road Reconstruction Project.

“It’s beautiful … It's showing now in our ability to have catering events and other trade shows,” he offered. “The people that are coming in to look at the place are really impressed with the way it looks as you approach the building now.”

He said enhancements paid for by WROTB, such as lighting and trees, have been installed.

“The trees have to grow in and then the grass has to grow a little better, but everything's been seeded and everything has been planted. The light fixtures – the street lights – (are in) and we will add some flags and other measures that will make the approach look even better,” he said. “We will be starting out with American flags for Veterans Day.”

  • Batavia Downs Gaming staff will be renovating three bathrooms and installing new carpet tile on the second floor – work necessitated by extensive flooding when a pipe burst in mid-September.

The board approved a contract with Tarkett USA, Inc., for carpet and tile in the amount of #28,857.40, to be installed in the administrative, information technology and finance departments, and an expenditure of up to $130,000 to rebuild the bathrooms to current standards.

  • Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach reported third-quarter earnings of $2,230,525, which will be distributed to member municipalities. Genesee County is set to receive $47,228 of that money, plus another $1,040 in September 2022 surcharge.

The corporation’s total handle for last month was $4.6 million, down about 10 percent from September 2021, while the video gaming “net win” was $6.4 million, up by about 2 percent from the same period last year. All told, operational earnings for September rose by 66 percent to $693,628.

October 13, 2022 - 2:10pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp..

The attorney representing Michael Nolan, the former chief operating officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., said today that he plans to appeal a federal district court judge’s ruling to dismiss Nolan’s lawsuit against the public benefit corporation.

“The misconduct on the part of WROTB is the subject of inquiries by state and federal agencies, and for good reason,” said Steven M. Cohen of the HoganWillig law firm in Amherst. “We are confident justice will be done, despite the strong political influence of President Wojtaszek and the lobbyists and attorneys on his payroll.”


District court judge dismisses suit against Western Regional OTB by former employee


Cohen said an appeal will be filed within 30 days of the entry of Judge Skretny’s order, pursuant to FRAP Rule 4(a)(1)(A).

On Wednesday, Justice William Skretny of the Western District of New York in Buffalo, dismissed – based on statute of limitations -- a suit by Nolan, who claimed that his federal First Amendment rights were violated when he alleged that he was retaliated against by WROTB leadership for speaking to federal agencies about alleged improper practices at the Batavia-based corporation.

While Skretny’s ruling closes the case at the federal level, other aspects of the lawsuit – New York State Causes of Action – will continue, Cohen said.

“We are confident that at least parts of Judge Skretny’s Decision and Order will be overturned, but even if not, the State Causes of Action will be going forward, and Messrs. Wojtaszek and Bianchi, and others, will be deposed as part of the New York State Causes of Action,” Cohen offered. “Judge Skretny’s order specifically dismissed the ‘federal Causes of Action’ without prejudice as to the State Causes of Action.”

Cohen was referring to Henry Wojtaszek, WROTB president and chief executive officer, and Richard Bianchi, WROTB board president.

He said that the Notice of Appeal will be filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. The formal appeal is to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, located in New York City.

“After we file the Notice of Appeal, we need to perfect the appeal, submit briefs, as will our opponents, and then the matter will be heard by the 2nd Circuit,” Cohen said.

October 12, 2022 - 8:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp..

A U.S. District Court judge today dismissed a lawsuit against Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. that was filed by Michael Nolan, a former chief operating officer of the public benefit company based in Batavia.

Justice William Skretny, representing the Western District of New York in Buffalo, based his ruling on a statute of limitations issue regarding Nolan’s claim that his First Amendment rights were violated when the corporation’s leadership allegedly retaliated against him for talking to federal agencies about alleged improprieties.

Nolan contended that he was fired from his position in December 2020 after being ostracized since April 2019 for sharing information with federal and state authorities as part of an inquiry into practices such as health insurance plans for board members, use of sports tickets and luxury boxes, and awarding of contracts.

WROTB officials retained legal counsel to fight the allegations – eventually filing a Motion to Dismiss -- and the matter has been tied up in court until today’s ruling.

“We are gratified by today’s District Court decision,” WROTB President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said in a press release. “From the beginning we have stated that these accusations were politically motivated.  We continue to believe that any thorough examination of the facts would show Western OTB acted in an appropriate and professional manner.

“The ruling by Judge Skretny was clearly well researched, well-reasoned, and came to the right conclusion. We will continue to focus on being a model OTB in the state and providing our customers with the best possible experience. Results matter, and the leadership at WROTB has made decisions that have resulted in record revenues being disbursed to our partners in local governments across the area. We look forward to building on that success now that these baseless allegations have been dismissed.” 

In his ruling, Skretny wrote that since Nolan’s claims alleging First Amendment retaliation ran from the first alleged instance of retaliation, “accruing not later than April 30, 2019.” Another complaint dated August 2021 came too late, the judge ruled, citing the statute of limitations at 1 year and 30 days after the first alleged instance.

“Therefore, Plaintiff’s (Nolan’s) First Cause of Action for First Amendment retaliation is dismissed as untimely and Defendants’ (WROTB) Motion to Dismiss … this cause of action is granted.”

Skretny concluded by stating that “absent an original jurisdiction claim, this Court also declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims and dismisses them without prejudice. Thus, Defendants’ Motion (id.) to dismiss the Second through and Fifth Causes of Action is granted. Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss … is granted and the case is closed.”

In August 2021, attorney Steven M. Cohen of HoganWillig, PLLC, of Buffalo filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nolan against WROTB, Wojtaszek and Richard Bianchi, chairman of the board of directors. The suit asked for Nolan to receive $4.5 million for violating his First Amendment rights (First Cause of Action), plus another $4.5 million for breaking the state’s Civil Service Law (Second Cause of Action) and additional $5.5 million for emotional pain and suffering (Third Cause of Action).

The Fourth Cause of Action sought indemnification and/or reimbursement of Nolan's attorneys’ fees from WROTB for representation for his appearance before the federal Grand Jury, and the Fifth Cause of Action alleged that WROTB violated New York Labor Law by retailing against Nolan.

Wojtaszek, in the press release, said he believes the dismissal once again vindicates the corporation.

“WROTB has won another victory in court against a frivolous attack on our operations. This is our fourth victory this year, against what appears to be a never-ending string of attacks by those with an ax to grind,” he said. “As we stated during our meeting with our 17 member counties last week, we have done much to improve the transparency and accountability of our organization, but many of the charges that were thrown at us were simply unfounded, and that was again underscored today in federal court.

“Lawsuits get dismissed when people miss deadlines. It must not have been a priority for Mr. Nolan or his attorney, which sometimes happens when you start with a baseless claim.”

WROTB was represented by Daniel Oliverio and Aaron Saykin of Hodgson Russ, a Buffalo law firm.

An email was sent to Cohen on Thursday morning, seeking comment on the decision.

October 5, 2022 - 10:43pm

Management of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., in an effort to provide transparency in the wake of challenges to its policies and procedures, presided over a three-hour session with chief financial officers from seven of its 17 member municipalities this afternoon at the Park Road facility’s board room.

The public benefit company has been hounded in recent months by an audit from the New York State Comptroller’s Office, by charges of fiscal irresponsibility by a disgraced former state senator and, most recently, by a series of letters sent by Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick seeking answers to questions concerning the following issues:

  • The sale of the Hotel at Batavia Downs (dated July 15);
  • Benefits (specifically ‘gold-plated’ health insurance) received by board members (July 18);
  • The use of external legal counsel (Aug. 1);
  • The retention of outside lobbyists (Aug. 8);
  • The possible misuse of promotional and marketing materials (Aug. 24).

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, speaking by telephone this evening, said he “appreciated that Hardwick was trying to get information” and added that the meeting ultimately will strengthen the corporation’s relationship with the municipalities.

“Overall, I think the meeting went extremely well and was productive for all involved,” Wojtaszek said. “Our goal is to be transparent, so we were happy to provide them with good, positive economic news that is resulting in record revenues to various counties this year.”

Corporation officials who made presentations at the session, along with Wojtaszek, were Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach, Compliance Consultant Paul Moskal, Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer and David Hart of Hart Hotels, which operates the hotel.

Genesee County Treasurer Scott German said he attended the meeting to learn more about WROTB’s methods.

“They started off by essentially going over the financials – the financials of horse racing and then the casino,” German said. “Then they gave each individual county that showed up our own sheet based on our financial information (such as revenues and surcharge issued to the municipalities).”

German said WROTB officials addressed the health insurance for directors, use of promotional tickets and use of company vehicles – “stuff that has been rehashed on TV for a couple of years now.”

“From what I heard, and this is coming from the side of OTB, their explanations were adequate, I guess. They made sense,” he said. “They explained how and why they give out tickets. For example, when they gave away tickets to see Garth Brooks in concert, they said they saw a dramatic increase in bets and profitability on those two particular days. It brought people in.”

German said that most of the questions came from Hardwick and Erie County Deputy Comptroller Timothy Callan with a few posed by Oswego County Treasurer Kevin Gardner.

Wojtaszek said Hart explained that the $7.5 million paid by WROTB to purchase the hotel from its original investors (ADK Hospitality) was warranted. 

“David showed them that the price paid was fair based on the appraisal that was done and the numbers that we have been able to sustain at the hotel,” Wojtaszek said. “And revenues continue to increase.”

On the health insurance subject, Wojtaszek said the board of directors will be addressing that issue in the coming weeks with the goal of establishing “a comprehensive way to provide coverage for all of our employees.”

He also said that Moskal conducted an audit on the corporation's practices, made suggestions "and we are following those suggestions."

Wojtaszek noted that he will be continuing the dialogue with Hardwick’s office and will provide additional documents that Hardwick requested. He said that all 15 member counties plus the cities of Rochester and Buffalo were invited to today's meeting.

The letters sent by Hardwick to WROTB can be viewed by going to the Erie County Comptroller’s Office website – www4.erie.gov/comptroller/.

September 30, 2022 - 2:54pm


Developing an effective promotion and marketing strategy at Batavia Downs Gaming sounds like a challenging assignment. Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer and his staff, however, have been equal to the task as revenues for the gaming/harness horse racing facility and hotel on Park Road continue to surge.

The Batavian sat down with Hasenauer (photo at top, pointing to "wall of fame" at the Batavia Downs clubhouse) to talk about his team’s efforts to increase the customer base at the entertainment venue operated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., a public benefit company that distributes a portion of earnings plus surcharge to its 17 member municipalities.

Hasenauer, 41, is a Rochester native who earned his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and Master of Business Administration from Medaille College (now University) in Buffalo before taking marketing positions with a software company and tanning salon chain.

He joined the marketing department at Batavia Downs in 2007, serving as director of marketing since October 2010. He and his wife, Elise, and their 7-year-old son, Theo, live in Hamburg.

Q. What is the overarching strategy when it comes to promotions? Your board of directors just authorized an expenditure of $600,000 for promotional items for the year – that’s a huge amount of money.

A. You’ve got to spend money to make money – that’s like one of the oldest adages in the book. What we do here at Batavia Downs is we implement two types of strategy – whether it’s horse racing, gaming, for the restaurants, the hotel. All those things basically work together as amenities for each other to basically accomplish two goals. One, attract new people to the facility and two, retain the people that we already have that enjoy coming here. And of course, if you're new, then you become an existing person. So, now I'm working hard to maintain your loyalty.

Q. It seems as though it is a very competitive industry?

A. The gaming landscape in Western New York is quite saturated. You've got one just south of Rochester, you've got one between Rochester and Syracuse, you've got several pinpointed around the Syracuse area and towards Utica, you've got one in Buffalo, we've got one in the Falls, you got one down to Alleghany and even got a few across the way just across the border into Canada now that Canada's opened up again. So, we have to be smart about our strategies because we are one of the smallest gaming facilities in New York State.

Echoing what Henry (Wojtaszek, WROTB president) has said many times, we try to see ourselves as the “Cheers” of casinos – we know your name. You can be a big fish in a small pond here. When you go to some of these other larger facilities, you're just a number to them. To reap some of the things you might want to get from a gaming facility, you have to be a very, very big player in those places to be even considered to get invites for a dinner tickets to a show on site or to a game, like the Buffalo Bills or whatever. Whereas here, we feel like we have a better relationship with our players. We know their names, we know their likes, their dislikes and you can still have access to some of those great things.

Q. What are some of the promotions that Batavia Downs offers?

A. If you're in the email club, for some of the concerts, you got an email for free tickets to our shows outside for our drawings on Wednesday nights. And on Friday nights. And coming in October, it'll be Tuesdays and Thursday nights. You can win tickets, whether you're a great player or not a great player. You can win tickets to see the Buffalo hockey team to see the Buffalo football team or the Rochester hockey team. The other places aren't doing drawings with their tickets; they're holding them back and only giving them to certain people. And while we do honor and give some of our higher-end players tickets, everyone has a chance with these drawings.

One of the other great things about doing that is that it drives traffic to the facility. It makes the facility busy because you’re here trying to win tickets to this real big country show that's coming to the facility. You know, when we gave away Garth Brooks tickets, this place was nuts. We gave away two pairs of Garth Brooks tickets on the floor. It was crazy here that night; people were excited to win those tickets. And they went to players that randomly were chosen in the game, which is exciting.

Q. Are you also in charge of lining up events such as dinners, fundraisers or weddings?

A. We have an amazing event staff headed up by Tory (Thompson) and we work together so much it’s like the other side of my brain. And Tory feels the same way about marketing here. People wanting an event here such as a fundraiser or big dinner are going to deal with Tory and she’s going to do right by you.

And we will work with you to help promote your event. I don't know many places that will literally say we will help you promote the event on our Facebook page, with ads in the local media. We take an extra step in making sure that if your event is a public event, we want you to succeed because what do we want? We want people here. It’s only smart for us to that.

Q. What about the concerts in the summer? Who coordinates that?

A. Things like the Vodka (& Gin) Fest, the Polka Fest, the Kentucky Derby party, all the concerts – those are things that the marketing team handles. The concerts are a total team effort, including the officers, where we get together to decide who's coming and what's going to go on, and what dates are they going to select?

That’s another thing that helps not only drive traffic to the facility, but provides entertainment for the people in Batavia and the surrounding areas. I remember, we had Three Dog Night come here and there was probably 6,000 to 7,000 people …singing along to all those old favorites.

Q. You’ve done a lot of renovation to the (racing) clubhouse.  What has been done there and how are you utilizing it?

A. So, the interesting thing about the clubhouse is that this place was built in 1940s; we opened on Sept. 20, 1940.  At that time, the clubhouse was like the crown jewel of this place, and over the years, it was a great place for people to come and watch the races.

There’s no mistake about it that horse racing is not as popular as it once was. We all get that; we understand that. There are not a lot of places across Western New York, first of all, but certainly across the United States that are actively trying to put money into horse racing spaces where people can enjoy watching horse racing. We put in money into that clubhouse. We put the “wall of fame” up there -- our history, from the 1940s all the way through present day and you could walk up and see it anytime you want.

We raised up the bar from the ground floor to beyond that level and made it so was a more welcoming experience for those who have movement disabilities. That was one thing that many people like to mention was that the buffet was on the top and you had to traverse those stairs. Now the buffet’s on the ground level. And if you have mobility issues, you don't have to worry about the stairs anymore. You go right to the buffet and find a seat where there's no going upstairs and you still have a seat on the window. You still have a great seat to see the horse racing.

Q. Judging by recent events in the clubhouse not related to horse racing, that must be a new wrinkle to your marketing strategy?

A. Because that clubhouse is only open, let's say between 50 and 70 days a year for horse racing, what are we going to do the other 300 days plus? While we do comedy shows there, we also utilize that space for nonpublic events. If somebody needs to utilize that space for a meeting, it’s available. We had Chamber (of Commerce) After Dark and the Zonta Club’s basket raffle. So again, utilizing the spaces that we have here to allow people to have meetings. We had a large meeting inside Park Place and events are scheduled throughout the week, not just on weekends.

Q. On the subject of horse racing, how much has that industry declined since its heyday? And how do you accommodate patrons that follow and wager on horse racing? Are they getting the short end of the stick, so to speak?

A. On the first question, I would have to take a look at the numbers to give you an accurate number. I know that during COVID, horse racing was one of the only things going on. We had that kind of artificial spike that happened in 2020 and in parts of 2021 where it was like, “Well, I can't go anywhere, but they're doing virtual horse racing someplace, I can make a wager on Batavia bets and I can do those things.”

I think what we are doing here at Batavia Downs to make sure that the horse players know that they're not forgotten about is making sure that they still have spaces to conduct that type of entertainment. Putting money in the clubhouse, making sure that that the ITW (Intertrack Wagering) is upstairs across the clubhouse on the second floor here at Batavia Downs. That space was put in when the gaming floor went downstairs, That's a very nice place for people to watch. There's nice chairs, there's ample space, there's vending machines nearby or if you want to go eat, you just go down the elevator, and there’s Fortune’s Restaurant.

(Hasenauer said Homestretch Grill, a smaller sandwich/pizza shop on the first floor is being remodeled and not open yet).

Q. So do you have any specials for the horse players because they're maybe not spending a lot of money on the gaming floor?

A. We’ve come to an agreement with the horsemen’s association to add 15 racing dates in January and February of next year, with racing on Wednesdays and Saturdays and some select Fridays thrown in there as well. We’re going to work to make sure the Homestretch Grill is open to satisfy those patrons and making sure they’re in a clean, comfortable environment.

Promotions include our magnet schedules, T-shirt toss after each race where the winning driver throws T-shirts onto the track apron for those in attendance. Free parking and admission, blanket giveaways. And we’re working with Don (Hoover, director of live racing) on things to make sure that people understand we’re not forgetting about horse racing. A lot of other casinos with racetracks have forgotten about horse racing.

You come here and buy a program, and if you go and earn a point on the gaming floor, we'll give you $5 on the gaming floor. And the program costs two bucks. So, if you're going to gamble anyway on the gaming floor, come and buy a program, earn your point, and then you've got a little bit of money for the gaming floor, too. We're doing things that are tying our racing and our gaming together. That's not something you're seeing at a lot of other places.


The renovated bar at the Batavia Downs Gaming clubhouse. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

September 22, 2022 - 1:59pm

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. directors this morning approved the creation of a director of Information Technology position at the Park Road entertainment venue.

The board, at its monthly meeting, passed a pair of resolutions concerning IT – the first to establish the department and a director and the second to appoint Jeff Magee of Rochester to the director post.

Magee, who has served as an IT consultant for the corporation, will receive an annual salary of $99,000.

“Jeff’s actually been affiliated with this company for about 30 years,” said WROTB President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek. “So, he is someone who we utilized on an outside basis to consult with and he’s a specialist in the area.”

Wojtaszek said the board decided to replace an IT employee who left the company with Magee, making him a full-time department head.

“It’s almost a neutral budget item because what we're paying Jeff equals what we were already paying him previously as a consultant together with the salary of the gentleman who we're not replacing,” he explained.

Magee may have to fulfill his duties in a makeshift work area for a little while due to the fact that a pipe burst on Sept. 12 and caused serious flooding to the upstairs administration area and also to the gaming floor downstairs.

The board grant permission for Wojtaszek and his staff to make necessary repairs to the damaged floors and furnishings under an “emergency declaration” – without passing a formal resolution at this time.

“We’ll address this and then we’ll bring all the things together (to the board) and they’ll approve everything,” Wojtaszek said, adding that all work will be done “in accordance with our bidding procedures.”

In another personnel matter, the board voted to discontinue providing cell phones to employees, opting instead to authorize a monthly stipend to those employees needing to use a cell phone for business purposes.

September 22, 2022 - 1:00pm

The Park Road Reconstruction Project has entered the homestretch and Batavia Downs Gaming officials couldn’t be more pleased.

That’s the word from Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., and the public benefit company’s board at their meeting this morning.

“It's probably 80 percent complete,” Wojtaszek said. “We expect substantial completion by October 17th and hopefully we will have two-way traffic on the street (again) in just two to three weeks.”

Edward Morgan, chair of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee, reported that Nov. 30 is the “targeted” completion date.

He said that trees purchased by WROTB are scheduled to be delivered tomorrow – and will take a week to install – and light poles (also purchased by WROTB) will be delivered next week and installed during the week of Oct. 3.

Morgan also said that the facility will feature two valet parking sites – the current one at the south end and a new one at the main entrance “to accommodate those (customers) staying at the Hotel (at Batavia Downs).

Wojtaszek said installation of the trees and streetlights will be handled by CATCO, the project’s primary contractor, and subcontractors.

“We're excited about the possibility of the completion by the second week in October and we look forward to a completed, beautiful project,” he said.

When asked by The Batavian about parking at the lot of the former Kmart building across the street, he said WROTB’s lease with Benderson Development, owner of the property, has expired and that anyone parking there is doing so “at their own risk.”

However, he did say that there is adequate parking for the events at Batavia Downs, and that he could foresee another lease agreement with Benderson should the need arise for concerts next summer.

On another front, the board extended its suite license with Pegula Sports & Entertainment for the 2022-23 Buffalo Bills football season at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, and a similar agreement with Rochester Arena LLC for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 Rochester Americans hockey seasons at the Blue Cross Arena.

Both contracts were paused in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the passage of a pair of resolutions to extend them. The cost with Pegula Sports is $103,200 and the cost with Rochester Arena is $37,150 for this season and $38,250 for 2023-24.

Wojtaszek said ticket distribution for the suites are handled through the WROTB marketing department “in a very professional, promotional way.”

“It'll be a combination of tickets being given away in a drawing on the (gaming) floor, which improves the attendance on our floor and improves foot traffic throughout the building, and then through the host department,” he said. “They’ll find good players and make sure that they offer them to come in and enjoy the experience at a Bills’ game (or Amerks’ game).”

In a related move, the board approved an annual expenditure of up to $610,000 for various promotional items from Mark-It-Smart, Inc., based in Santa Ana, Calif. Items are purchased on a per-event basis as part of a “continuity program,” Wojtaszek said, and include luggage, cookware, purses, barbecue items, camping equipment, glassware and small appliances.

In other action, the board approved the following resolutions:

  • Contracts with three Batavia-based companies for a telescopic boom lift, marketing mailers and electrical parts and supplies.

Directors authorized payment of $147,000 to Skyworks, the lowest bidder, for a telescopic boom lift, ending the recent practice of leasing the equipment.

“Now’s the time to take that extra step and purchase it and make it cost-effective for the company,” Wojtaszek said. “It's a safety issue. We have a lot of decent sized projects here, including window washing and construction. It was put into the capital plan, and it was in the budget for this year. The board thought it was prudent to go ahead and purchase it, and I agree.”

The board accepted a bid of $115,000 from Applied Business Systems to send out marketing mailers to patrons and potential patrons over the next year, with an option for WROTB to extend the pact for an additional year.

An agreement to spend up to $25,000 with Falcone Electric for electrical parts and supplies was approved through the end of the year.

  • A five-year extension of a contract with IK Systems, Inc., of Victor, at a cost not to exceed $68,444 to provide maintenance and testing services for the facility’s surveillance system.

Wojtaszek said he has been “impressed” with IK’s performance.

“I actually supervise the surveillance department here on site and I interact with them (IK Systems) very often. They are very timely and they're very efficient, So, that’s a five-year contract, sort of at a reduced price because we did it for an extended period of time.”

  • Electric and natural gas contracts with Marathon Power LLC and NOCO Gas & Electric, respectively, through Oct. 31, 2024. Both companies submitted low bids, with Marathon agreeing to supply electric at .0645 per kilowatt hour and NOCO agreeing to supply natural gas at 0.675 per centum cubic feet.
August 25, 2022 - 12:02pm

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. leaders are taking steps to address the company health insurance policy that has been a media hot button item in recent months.

The corporation’s board of directors this morning approved a resolution to spend up to $25,000 to extend a contract with the Connors LLP law firm of Buffalo, with the goal of reaching a “global solution" to the health insurance matter.

“I’ve been instructed (by the board) to come back in September with a plan to globally address the healthcare issue for the whole company,” WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said following the meeting at the Park Road facility. “We’re working on a nice, fair global solution to whatever healthcare (is permissible) and that includes the board and entire corporation.”

Wojtaszek said lawyers are negotiating with the New York State Attorney General’s office.

“He’s (Terry Connors) prepared a memo that he’s provided to the attorney general and he’s provided advice to our board,” he said. “Talks with the attorney general are continuing.”

Published reports about the “gold plated” health insurance plan given to board members have prompted protests from Western New York politicians and government officials – present and past. Until June of last year, all board members (and three retired ones) were receiving health insurance plans that cost the public benefit company an average of more than $10,000 per year.

The board, at its June 2021 meeting, voted unanimously to eliminate company-sponsored health insurance benefits for directors appointed on or after July 1, 2021. So, as of today, the majority of the board members are still receiving fully-paid health insurance.

In other developments, the board:

  • Approved the purchase of $50,000 worth of $20 gift cards from Tops Friendly Markets to be used toward a promotion for the Hotel at Batavia Downs for eligible hotel stays through the end of the year.
  • Announced that $61,498 in surcharges generated in July will be distributed to member municipalities. Also, it was reported that Batavia Bets’ revenue is down 16 percent this month as compared to last August, and 17 percent for the year as compared to this time in 2021.
  • Learned that management is looking to reduce the number of summer concerts from 11 to nine next year in an effort to attract top name bands and, hopefully, eliminate tribute bands. “The purpose is to possibly spend a little bit more money to get bigger bands, for lack of a better term, in order to attract bigger crowds,” Wojtaszek said. When asked if security was an issue this year, he said the combination of Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies, Batavia Police Department officers and the Downs’ security staff handled things well.
  • Reported that the Park Road Reconstruction Project is moving along, noting that crews were laying the binder on the east side of the road and that sidewalks are being put in on both sides. “We expect the road to be open after Labor Day and we expect substantial completion -- 97-98 percent of the project -- done by September 20th,” Wojtaszek said. (See photo below).


July 28, 2022 - 7:32pm

bataviadownspressermay2022.jpgFormer State Sen. George Maziarz has ended his lawsuit against the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

On Monday of this week, a “Notice of CPLR 3217 Voluntary Discontinuance” was filed in the Erie County Supreme Court, with pertinent wording as follows:

Please take notice that the Complaint in this case is voluntarily dismissed pursuant to CPLR 3217, without prejudice.

According to New York State Law, CPLR 3217 (a) CPLR 3217 (a) allows a brief window for a plaintiff to withdraw, or voluntarily discontinue, an action, without requiring either a stipulation of any appearing parties or leave of court. Plaintiff needs to serve a notice of discontinuance on all parties before a responsive pleading is served or within twenty days of the service of the complaint.

Contacted by email today through a representative of his, Maziarz replied, “My lawsuit against Western Regional Off-Track Betting has been voluntarily withdrawn at the request of a law enforcement agency.” He had no further comment.

In May, Maziarz, who represented Niagara County in the State Senate from 1995-2014, took legal action against WROTB and its leadership, following up on a state Comptroller’s Office report that officials of the public benefit company misused tickets to sporting events and concerts and provided gold-plated health insurance policies to appointed board members.

Maziarz was suing to have funds returned to WROTB’s 17 member municipalities, including Genesee County.

Attorneys for WROTB proceeded to file a motion to dismiss prior to a ruling. Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, upheld a March 25, 2021 decision by (then) Genesee County Supreme Court Justice Charles N. Zambito that Maziarz was not entitled to attorney’s fees and litigation costs incurred during a Freedom of Information Law proceeding to gain records from WROTB.

The Batavian reached out this afternoon to WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek for his reaction to the lawsuit’s dismissal.

“As we said when it was filed, this was a frivolous lawsuit and a publicity stunt. We were very confident that it would be dismissed, and it has been,” he said. “We are very happy that Batavia Downs continues to generate increased revenues and that we are able with to return that money to our member municipalities at a record level.”

Wojtaszek added that he and the WROTB board view the dismissal “as an attempt (by Maziarz) to limit his embarrassment in regard to the frivolous lawsuit.”

Maziarz was represented by Advocates for Justice, New York City, while WROTB was represented by Hodgson Russ LLP of Buffalo.

File photo of George Maziarz taken by Howard Owens.

Previously: WROTB hires Buffalo law firm to oppose suit filed by Maziarz; Park Road traffic patterns set to change

Previously: Former state senator with his own corruption history files lawsuit against Batavia Downs alleging corruption

July 28, 2022 - 1:09pm


Ricky Palermo couldn’t have been more appreciative this morning as he accepted a $20,000 check from Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., to support the Ricky Palermo Foundation for spinal injury research.

The funds represent ticket sales, food vendor and chair rental fees from the "Bruce in the USA" concert that took place on June 10 at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

Palermo credited Ryan Hasenauer and the marketing department staff at WROTB for making the concert happen and the community for getting behind it.

“We've never done anything this big before,” he said in front of a small gathering in the casino lobby. “I can’t say enough how much we appreciate it. Every time we had a question either Henry or Ryan or one of the girls would get back to me. It made life a lot easier.”

He said that the foundation has raised more than $1.7 million over the past 26 years.

“It’s kind of amazing when you think about that,” he said. “We couldn't do it without the help of everybody -- everybody in our community.”

Palermo noted that people who attended the concert have reached out to him, looking for answers in regard to getting help for a spinal injury.

Contributions to the Ricky Palermo Foundation are distributed to four entities, Palermo said. Those are United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, the bicycle program for spinal injured people at the Genesee Area Family YMCA and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

“A small chunk goes to Strong Memorial because they took care of me when I first got hurt, so I want to make sure to remember them,” he said.

Wojtaszek said the Downs plans to host another event next year to support the Ricky Palermo Foundation.

The foundation’s 26th annual golf tournament is scheduled for Aug. 6 at Terry Hills Golf Course on Clinton Street Road. Palermo said it will be a “golf only” event with a take-home chicken and pork barbecue dinner.

Photo: Ricky Palermo accepts $20,000 check from Henry Wojtaszek this morning at Batavia Downs Gaming. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 28, 2022 - 12:35pm

Batavia Downs Gaming is on its way to another year of record earnings, the chief financial officer for Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. said this morning.

“Surcharge and earnings distributions are up 175 percent this year compared to the same point in 2021 and we’re about $500,000 away from 2021’s earnings distribution of $4.9 million – which was the best ever for the corporation,” said CFO Jacquelyne Leach, following today’s board of directors meeting at the Park Road facility.

Year-to-date earnings and surcharge for 2022 are at $4,713,508, broken down as follows: $4,340,130 in earnings and $373,378 in surcharge, Leach reported. Compared to last year at this time, the total earnings and surcharge distributions were $1,716,870.

“At this pace, this will be the highest earnings year in the corporation’s history,” Leach said.

She said that the public benefit company will be distributing $2,606,704 in second quarter earnings and June surcharge to its 17 member municipalities next week.

Genesee County will receive $53,903 from the second quarter earnings pool and $951 from the surcharge pool, bringing its year-to-date earnings and surcharge distribution to $99,251. For all of 2021, Genesee County received $36,190 in surcharge and earnings distributions.

Resolutions passed by the board during its meeting include:

  • Finalization of an agreement with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to add 15 racing dates in January and February 2023 to the current schedule. WNYHHA has agreed to pay all expenses associated with conducting the additional dates – expected to be around $300,000, according to WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek. The dates will be announced after approval of the contract by the New York State Gaming Commission.
  • Authorizing WROTB to pay $140,000 for the Town of Batavia, through general contractor CATCO, to install a new 12-inch sewer line during the Park Road Reconstruction Project. Previously, the Batavia Town Board voted in favor of the agreement, which calls for WROTB and Genesee Park Place Associates to share the cost of about 700 linear feet of sewer pipe.
  • A contract with Audio Images Sound & Lighting of Batavia for $150,000 to set up the stage, concert lighting and associated equipment for the Rockin’ The Downs Concert Series this summer. Wojtaszek acknowledged that the contract should have been presented to the board sooner, since the concert series is halfway done, but said the amount was negotiated prior to the start of the series.
  • Expenditures totaling up to $130,000 for food and beverages at three Western New York venues during events sponsored by WROTB for customers. The amounts are $75,000 at Key Bank Center in Buffalo (Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bandits, concerts); $30,000 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, and $25,000 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park (Buffalo Bills, concerts).
  • Agreements with the WNYHHA to evenly split the cost of the purchase of a new 621 G Z Bar Case Loader from Monroe Tractor and a new T450 Track Loader from Clark Equipment Co., which will be used to maintain the harness track. The first piece of equipment costs $186,412.59 and the second one costs $54,786.63.
  • A change order of the contract with Suburban Electric, Inc., in the amount of $22,709.36 for electric work associated with the lighting of the parking lot adjacent to the new warehouse and cold storage facility on the ground’s south end. Wojtaszek said the total cost of the project is around $1 million and it is near completion.
  • Acceptance of a purchase offer of no less than $450,000 from Laur Properties, LLC, for the OTB branch that has been for sale on Military Road in Niagara Falls.
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