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Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

March 24, 2022 - 3:56pm

An independent audit of the Western New York Off-Track Betting Corp. revealed “a clean opinion” with no internal control material weaknesses, according to a certified public accountant with The Bonadio Group.

Randy Shepard, speaking at this morning’s WROTB board of directors meeting at the Park Road facility, said the corporation’s accounting procedures and financial position are in good order.

“From an overall perspective, we did issue an unmodified, or a clean, audit opinion. That's the highest level of assurance that we can give from an audit perspective,” Shepard reported. “And that's very important, as you go to bonding – and this year you did go out to bond – that having a clean opinion impacts your interest rates and things like that. So, a very good process.”

Shepard also said the audit did not identify any material weaknesses in internal control and made no adjustments to financial figures.

“So, when you think about the complexity of the organization, the many moving parts that are here, it's very critical to note that you've got a very strong internal control structure,” he said. “And then, from the perspective of audit adjustments, when we do our audit, we're looking for errors, misstatements, etc. There's millions of dollars that flow through the organization on a monthly basis. And we did not identify any audit adjustments as part of the process.”

He credited Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach and her staff for their accuracy in keeping the books.

“That’s very important,” he said. “So, when the board is making decisions, making key critical decisions, you're looking at those numbers, you know that they're accurate and that we're not coming in at the end of the year and making adjustments to what you've seen.”

Responding to WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek’s request to talk about about the corporation’s balance sheeting coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shepard said “the rebound has been very nice.”

“Obviously, for the organization, volumes and patron activity levels have been higher here. And that really is demonstrated on the balance sheet in terms of where your cash position is. Your liabilities and your debt are much more manageable now that you’ve refinanced … So, I think your financial position is in a very good spot.”

Wojtaszek said he and the board are “ecstatic” with the audit report.

“We have no issues with in terms of internal controls or anything with our financial statements. They're clean,” he said after the meeting. “There are no issues and in terms of our balance sheet, and we are in a fantastic financial position at Batavia Downs -- especially coming out of a pandemic, where we were shut down for six months having no revenue. We are really in a great financial position.”

When asked if the audit addressed some of the problems found by the New York State Comptroller’s Office regarding the distribution of sports tickets and the use of company vehicles for the years 2017-19, Wojtaszek said all of those issues have been rectified.

“Again, we invited the Comptroller here in the first place,” he said. “We had resolved the majority if not all of the issues even before they came here, and so we feel very comfortable with them coming in here and anything they had pointed out. We were looking for any good advice and we took that advice.

“Jackie Leach and her accounting staff have done a great job of making sure that our financial house is in order.”

In other developments, the board passed several resolutions, including the following:

  • The hiring of Don Hoover to the consolidated position of general manager of live racing and race secretary, effective June 1 through Dec. 31 at a monthly salary of $12,000. Hoover, who has worked at several tracks, including Saratoga and Vernon Downs, replaces Todd Haight, who retired as the live racing GM after 20 years in Batavia.
  • A contract with Mark Lowe to serve as live racing consultant from April 1 through Dec. 31 at a rate of $3,500 per month.
  • A change order in a contract with Edward Hulme, Inc., of Warsaw, which is building a new warehouse and cold storage facility on the property. The action approves spending an additional $17,000 to modify the sidewalk portion of the project. Wojtaszek said he expects the $1 million, 5,000-square-foot structure to be done in May.
  • Contracts, with the total amount not to exceed $350,000, with several musical acts that will be performing at the 2022 Summer Concert Series at Batavia Downs. The series kicks off on June 17 with Tommy DeCarlo, current lead singer of Boston, and Rudy Cardenas, a Journey tribute vocalist.

Also, it was announced that $314,000 in winning tickets from OTB parlors have yet to be cashed. If not redeemed by the end of this month, the funds will go into the state treasury.

March 2, 2022 - 2:16pm

henry_sewer_line_1.jpg

Directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. have approved spending up to $190,212 to install a new sewer pipe extending from the Genesee Park Place apartments to an area in front of the Hotel at Batavia Downs on Park Road.

The board, at its meeting last week, approved a resolution to accept a proposal by Town of Batavia officials to put in the pipe as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project that is set to get underway this month.

“We believe the sewer pipe project will cost around $260,000 and we’ve made a request to owners of the Park Place apartments to split the cost,” WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said today. “The board agreed to a maximum of $190,000 to take into account any overruns or contingencies, and in case we have to do it on our own.”

Wojtaszek said putting in the sewer line will eliminate the need to use an old pump station just south of Alex’s Place and will result in lower costs to the corporation.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain agreed, adding that it would be more efficient if that work is done as part of the major renovation of the road.

“We posed that to them if they wanted to consider it now rather than later,” Mountain said. “Now's the time -- before the road is built.”

WROTB previously agreed to spend about $450,000 in enhancements to the $4.077 million project -- improvements such as trees, street lights, increasing the size of the sidewalks and replacing the fence along the parking lots.

Mountain said the main water pipe is being delivered today or tomorrow and work will start in a couple weeks. Catco (Concrete Applied Technologies Corp.) Construction of Alden is general contractor for the project, which is expected to take several months, possibly until the end of the year.

“I guess you could say this is the calm before the storm,” Mountain said. “Everything will get started when the weather starts breaking.”

He noted that there will be lane shutdowns during construction but traffic will be maintained.

“There'll be times when it'll be stop and go for sure,” he advised.

The project calls for the installation of new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road; overlaying of pavement and installation of sidewalks on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98, and installation of new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

Photo: WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek points north on Park Road, where a new sewer line running from Genesee Park Place apartments to Batavia Downs Gaming will be installed as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 2, 2022 - 6:11pm

siebert_1.jpgThe Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon passed a resolution opposing a bill in the New York State Senate that would reconfigure the makeup of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting governing board, thus eliminating a standalone vote by the Genesee County director.

“It’s an outrage,” said Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg, who represents the City of Batavia. “I’m really concerned about this power grab.”

Clattenburg said Genesee County has a significant stake in WROTB, the public benefit company that operates Batavia Downs Gaming and harness track in Batavia and Off-Track Betting locations throughout Western New York.

She mentioned that Genesee County provides law enforcement and public safety services to the Park Road facility.

Richard Siebert, (photo at right), the county WROTB director for the past 28 years, brought the matter to the legislature’s attention two weeks ago and he was present at today’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse in support of the resolution that would retain the longstanding board structure – one vote for each director representing 15 counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo.

Kennedy’s bill calls for the following:

  • Three members to represent the counties of Monroe, Wyoming, and Orleans;
  • One member to represent the counties of Chautauqua, Cayuga, Genesee, Livingston, Schuyler, and Seneca;
  • Four members to represent Erie County;
  • One member to represent Niagara County;
  • One member to represent the counties of Oswego, Cattaraugus, and Orleans;
  • One member to represent the City of Buffalo;
  • One member to represent the City of Rochester;
  • One member appointed by the governor;
  • One member appointed by the temporary president of the senate;
  • One member appointed by the speaker of the assembly.

Kennedy said that his intent is to “provide more equal representation of the people of the area who benefit from proceeds from said corporation.”

Siebert, in disputing that contention, said “this is just a blatant takeover of (by) very powerful people.”

“In my estimation, we have a very good thing going here. You know what we’re doing here in the casino ... the race track, with our concerts,” he said.

With a year-by-year revenue distribution list in hand, Siebert said WROTB has distributed more than $12 million to Genesee County since 1975.

“When we joined OTB in 1974, we had to give them $13,700 seed money. To date, our investment for Genesee County – the cash we have paid – is $12,683,000 and change,” he said. “If anybody in Albany is saying that we’re not doing a good job, for a $14,000 investment and getting $12 million back speaks (for itself).”

Siebert said the key issue is that Genesee County “has the most to lose” by not having its own vote on legislative, purchasing, personnel, and other topics.

He said with the casino and horse racing track in the Town of Batavia, local municipal leaders are available to handle situations that come up from time to time.

“If there's a problem with Redfield Parkway, or noise or horse manure, which we’ve had in the past, people can come to you and can come to me and say, ‘What’s going on over there and why are we doing this or that?’” he said. “Not having one director to represent our count and everything we’ve got going on here, is just, I think, a travesty.”

Siebert said WROTB directors in other rural counties also are going to their legislators and council members in expectation of similar resolutions, and that the corporation is looking to hire a lobbying firm to exert political pressure on senators and assembly members in Albany.

“And a third thing is to basically go back to the position that we’re a public benefit corporation set up under Home Rule, and if they want to take us apart, they have to do it the same way we started – take us apart by Home Rule and let you people (legislature) decide,” he said.

The resolution points out that WROTB has generated more than $250 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of the participating municipalities, with Siebert adding that the board sends $3 million per month to New York State for what is supposed to go to support education.

Passed unanimously by the committee, the resolution will be addressed by the full legislature at next Wednesday’s meeting.

Previously: Genesee's WROTB director slams state senator's attempt to restructure board of directors, place a cap on perks

January 20, 2022 - 12:22pm

The president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning said he expects work on the Park Road Reconstruction Project to start in March.

“Everything seems to be in place,” Henry Wojtaszek said following the monthly board of directors meeting. “The preliminary work that the town (of Batavia) had to do up here at the corner of Lewiston and Park was completed, and … we anticipate a March start on the construction and probably go through to the end of summer, sometime in August or September.”

Wojtaszek said WROTB is prepared to pay around $450,000 for additional enhancements along Park Road – such as trees and street lights and increasing the size of the sidewalks – and also is working with town officials on issues related to the sewer system.

“We’re considering sewer enhancements instead of a pump station, which would be very costly to maintain,” he said.

The $4.077 million project consists of a complete renovation of Park Road – new pavement, curbs, sidewalks, water lines and street lights -- between Route 63 (Lewiston Road) and Route 98 (Oak Street).

Town Assistant Engineer Tom Lichtenthal previously reported that completion is set for December of this year.

In other developments from today’s WROTB meeting:

  • While sports betting on cell phones is now legal in New York State, Wojtaszek said he doesn’t expect that service to come to gaming facilities until early next year.

“We will have the ability to have kiosks here on site for sports betting next January and we anticipate taking advantage of that and providing that service for our customers,” he said. “But right now, we’re having our customers come in and they're betting the games on the phone or watching them in our 34 Rush.”

He said New York has already overtaken all other states to become the leading sports betting state in the nation. “And it took all of two weeks,” he said, noting that it became legal on Jan. 8.

  • A June 10 concert by Bruce in the USA, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, will benefit the Ricky Palermo Foundation. A lifelong Genesee County resident, Palermo has been instrumental in raising millions of dollars for spinal injury research.

“One hundred percent of the ticket proceeds will go to Ricky’s foundation,” said Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer. “Tickets are on sale now.”

For more information, go to www.bataviaconcerts.com.

  • WROTB distributed $65,215 in surcharges to member municipalities in November, Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach reported.

On the branch side, revenue increased by $12 million in 2021 compared to 2020, but was down $1.1 million from 2019. The handle of Batavia Bets, the online platform, went up by $1.2 million in 2021 compared to the previous year.

  • Directors approved a resolution to purchase 840 gaming chairs and stools from Gary Platt Mfg. of Reno, Nev., for $346,000.
January 20, 2022 - 11:51am

morgan.jpgbianchi.jpgDirectors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning overwhelmingly approved Board Chair Richard Bianchi and Vice Chair Ed Morgan retaining their leadership positions for another year, firing back at proposed legislation that would change significantly the composition of the board.

Bianchi (Monroe County) and Morgan (Orleans County) (in photos, left to right) were unanimously re-elected to lead the board at its monthly meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

In nominating Bianchi, director Dennis Bassett (City of Rochester) cited WROTB’s “record earnings and record attendance,” adding that Bianchi “has guided us through some storms … and brought the board together like never before.”

Morgan, a retired highway superintendent, also was credited by Genesee County director Richard Siebert for his expertise in helping WROTB navigate the Park Road Reconstruction project with the Town of Batavia and for being available when needed.

The board, understandably, is opposing a bill proposed by State Sen. Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo that would revise the structure of the board based on population – action that would end the longstanding setup of a director for each of the 15 counties and cities of Buffalo and Rochester that own the public benefit company.

Kennedy also has drafted two other bills that would cap the allowance of promotional items for certain members of the corporation at $15 and prohibit WROTB corporation vehicles from being used as take-home vehicles. This proposed legislation comes on the heels of a State Comptroller’s report that faulted WROTB management and board in these areas.

WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said the board has worked hard through the committee process to elevate Batavia Downs Gaming, the harness track and its OTB branches to record earnings.

“You heard today that the board certainly doesn't support a measure to dismantle the board that has done such a great job to bring Batavia Downs to where it is right now, where it is returning record amounts of money to the municipalities,” Wojtaszek said.

“So, they oppose it and they intend to go back to their respective communities and legislatures and councils and have them pass resolutions in opposition to this type of legislation. And as I said yesterday (to The Batavian), they directed me to explore options relative to fighting such a piece of legislation going into effect, including litigation.”

Wojtaszek said Bianchi and Morgan are “outstanding” leaders and “they’re always accessible.”

“They are often on site and they provide their expertise in the various areas that they bring to the table and you can see the results,” he said. “And in the numbers (because) people vote with their feet and their dollars … people love what they see when they come here. We provide a great entertainment, we provide great customer service, we have great food and drinks. And we intend to continue doing that.”

As far as Kennedy’s other bills, Wojtaszek said WROTB addressed the perks situation three years ago and is “supportive of those type of actions that provide transparency that cuts down on government waste. All those issues we support.”

He said the corporation has set a limit relative to gifts, but noted a difference in game tickets (Sabres, Bills) that are given to directors for hosting groups.

“It’s not a gift to the person who is a host for Batavia Downs; they’re actually working. So, the use of that ticket is for work, it's not a gift in the first place,” he said. “Our policies and procedures put in place by our marketing director are very good at this point.

“We've been dealing with people all across the state and the Inspector General, and anybody else who's asked – the Comptroller – who we invited into give us advice as to how to run this place better. We've followed that advice and things are running very well right now.”

Previously: Genesee's WROTB director slams state senator's attempt to restructure board of directors, place a cap on perks

January 19, 2022 - 6:04pm

tcfhjfwk.jpgThe longtime Genesee County representative to the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. believes bills being introduced by State Sen. Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo, if passed into law, are a “power grab” that would destroy the governance structure of the public benefit company that operates Batavia Downs Gaming and harness track.

Speaking to the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon, Richard Siebert, a WROTB director for 28 years, said the proposal by Kennedy (photo at right) would “basically demolish everything we’ve had at OTB.”

“It would eliminate the status that we’ve had since 1974 when our county joined and everybody else (other participating counties) joined,” he said. “The legislation would basically eliminate the directors as we know them … (and) would put perhaps Genesee as a director in with Livingston County, Chautauqua County, Catt (Cattaraugus) County, Orleans County, Seneca County; basically, eliminate all of us, and put just one director, perhaps appointed by the governor.”

Siebert said he wanted the legislature to be aware of Kennedy’s Senate bills, which were introduced last week in response to State Comptroller’s audits – released in September 2021 -- that faulted WROTB management for lack of oversight of perks distributed and for failure to receive prompt reimbursement for personal use of an official vehicle.

The audit by the Comptroller’s office took place over the course of a little more than two years, between September 2017 and December 2019.

According to Kennedy’s website, the three bills would result in the following:

  • Revise the structure of the board based on population. As OTB profits are distributed by population, this bill would require that the membership of the board of directors be based on population.
  • Cap the allowance of promotional items for certain members of the corporation. This legislation would make the gift rules governing OTB associates consistent with the Public Officers Law, Legislative Law, and Executive Law, where state employees may not receive a gift of any kind valued at an amount greater than $15.
  • Prohibit OTB corporation vehicles from being used as take-home vehicles.

Regarding the current makeup of the WROTB, each of the 15 counties plus the City of Buffalo and City of Rochester that receive benefits from gaming and racing revenues are represented by a director.

“It basically is a power grab for the bigger counties,” Siebert said. “We’ve always had one county, one vote. Genesee, Orleans – we’ve always had the same vote as the City of Rochester.”

Contacted minutes ago, WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said the board has directed him to “explore all of our options.”

“All I will say at this time is that we’re exploring all of our options, including litigation, relative to the proposed bills,” Wojtaszek said. “It’s pretty simple.”

The WROTB directors meet for their monthly public session at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Park Road facility’s corporate board room.

Siebert said he wants the Genesee County Legislature and other county legislatures to draft resolutions to “exercise our Home Rule” opposing Kennedy’s plan.

“We have to realize that under Home Rule, we started this but with the Senate, the governor and the Assembly all in one little room, anything can happen,” he said. “This is very serious and can have serious consequences to our county.”

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg agreed with Siebert’s assessment of the situation, reiterating that “it’s definitely a power grab.”

“We all know what it’s about. It’s about the money that’s been shared … pretty liberally with a lot of municipalities and we need to fight this as hard as we possibly can.”

Kennedy, in announcing the proposed legislation, said the Comptroller’s report “outlined mismanagement and dysfunction at the Western Regional OTB, and demonstrated a clear need for reforms at the corporation, which has been plagued with problems for years.”

“Through this legislation, we’re holding members accountable, revising outdated policy, and creating fairer representation on the OTB board moving forward. Taxpayers deserve better, and we intend to ensure they receive that.”

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli apparently is in the Democratic senator's corner, judging by his comments.

“The Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. gave generous perks to board members, employees and others, ignoring state rules,” DiNapoli said. “My auditors found a troubling disregard for appropriate safeguards to hold people accountable and protect public resources. Senator Kennedy is proposing legislation that addresses this mismanagement and our major audit findings. I look forward to working with Senator Kennedy on these critical reforms and holding government accountable.”  

December 2, 2021 - 5:11pm

dan_wood_batavia_downs_gaming_1.jpgDan Wood is a classic example of someone who has moved up the ladder to reach a position that, 14 years ago, he never would have imagined that he would be filling.

Wood, an Attica native who has lived in Batavia for the past 23 years, today was promoted to director of security at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road. He will replace Joe Vacanti, who is moving into a part-time assistant director role.

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. directors announced the appointment at their board meeting. Wood (photo at right) will assume the director post on Jan. 1.

“In my 14 years here, I never thought that I'd be in the position that I am now,” Wood said. “And I started out as just a part-time guy out on the track. Here I am all these years later and in a month, I will be the director of security.”

Wood said that he has the training and experience to handle the responsibilities, which include supervision of 47 employees – 13 full time, 17 part time and 17 substitutes. Another 12 people are hired as seasonal security officers assigned to the harness horse racing track.

The number of security guards currently is down about 20 from normal, he said.

“I have worked at the federal jail in Batavia (detention facility) for 10 years as well, so between both jobs, I have much experience. Plus, I have my Criminal Justice degree. So, I think it’s a good fit and I’m really excited.”

WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said he’s confident that there will be a smooth transition.

“Dan has been part of the senior leadership there for a while and the board felt comfortable naming him to the top spot, and we look forward to him taking over,” Wojtaszek said.

Beyond keeping the peace and managing loss prevention, Wood said his certified security personnel are trained to contribute to the facility’s positive atmosphere.

“One of the biggest things that we want our people to do is greet people when they come in with a smile, and greet people and thank them when they leave,” he said.

Wood, 44, has two daughters, Clara, 16, and Nora, 14.

December 2, 2021 - 1:03pm

The Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors, acknowledging the continued record earnings at Batavia Downs Gaming, today approved raises of 3 ½ percent for its non-union employees, effective Jan. 1, 2022.

Non-union employees, about 120 of them, include senior management, supervisors and department heads, said WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek following the board’s monthly meeting at the Park Road facility.

Last month, management and the union agreed to raises and bonuses for union workers.

Director Dennis Bassett, representing the City of Rochester, commended the senior leadership team for a successful 2021 thus far.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it was a long hard fight,” he said. “There are people that care about us and people who want to make headlines that don’t care about us. So, we thank you.”

Genesee County Director Richard Siebert, speaking after the meeting, said he is in full support of the salary increase.

“If you look back over the last 18 months or so, with the pandemic and everything, we were in trouble and worrying about staying in business, to be honest about it,” Siebert said. “We had to let a lot of people go – we asked for help. But the fact that where we are now, setting records, when just a few months ago we were down on our backs, it’s just a credit to the leadership.”

Siebert reiterated a previous public statement that this is the best management team he has seen in his 27 years on the board.

“Obviously, we’re doing good in the community, we’re good neighbors and we’re making money for our county (and other participating counties) and we’re providing jobs for the local people.”

According to figures provided by Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyn Leach, Batavia Downs Gaming earned $668,000 in October – a record month. That is up significantly from the $192,000 in October 2019, which at that time was considered a highwater mark.

Leach also said that the corporation will distribute $68,120 in surcharge for October, the first leg of the fiscal year’s fourth quarter. Third quarter earnings of $2.5 million also were a record, something that was reported on The Batavian in late October.

Thus far in 2021, about $4.5 million in earnings and surcharge has been distributed WROTB’s 17 municipalities.

In her operating plan for 2022, Leach projects revenues of $4.8 million in earnings and another 886,000 in surcharge.

On other fronts:

  • Wojtaszek said that some preparatory work on the Park Road Reconstruction Project is taking place, noting that crews are at the corner of Lewiston Road today.

“They’ve got some equipment lined up, and as soon as they get the pipe in, they will work on putting that in and then we will begin the process of beautifying the road,” he said.

Supply chain issues have resulted in the project being pushed back until spring, Batavia Town Assistant Engineer Tom Lichtenthal said last month.

When construction does start in earnest, Wojtaszek said his team is hoping to work with other businesses along the road to help mitigate any traffic issues.

“There were some good suggestions made by the board yesterday. Some of them are to go to some of the various businesses and see if we can work with them on the parking that they have, instead of having everybody come down in the middle of Park Road,” he offered.

  • Pepsi-Cola has signed on as the 2022 Rockin’ the Downs Concert Series “name sponsor,” a $40,000 investment that, according to Wojtaszek, is “raising the level of the performers.”

The Batavian ran a video and story on the concert lineup on Wednesday.

Additionally, Rochester Regional Health, locally represented by United Memorial Medical Center, will become a sponsor.

“We want to partner with them on various health care initiatives,” Wojtaszek said, mentioning the corporation’s participation in a wellness points program.

Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said the RRH logo will be placed on all hand sanitizers at Batavia Downs Gaming.

October 29, 2021 - 1:47pm

While falling short of the $3 million predicted by Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s chief financial officer, the 2021 third quarter nevertheless turned out to be a record three-month period at Batavia Downs Gaming.

WROTB’s 17 participating municipalities will be receiving $2,518,587 in earnings from July, August and September and another $62,729 in surcharge in September, according to figures released Thursday by CFO Jacquelyne Leach.

"We fell short because we were able to come to an agreement with the Batavia Downs Gaming Union to provide a much deserved bonus and wage adjustment to our gaming union employees," Leach said.

Furthermore, illustrating the facility’s recent surge in activity, earnings and surcharge distributions of $4.4 million for the first nine months of 2021 are $1.2 million more when compared to the first nine months of 2019 -- a 39.48 percent increase, Leach reported.

Genesee County will be receiving $53,393 in earnings from the third quarter and $1,090 in surcharge from September. For the year, the combined amount going to Genesee is $93,344 – up from $71,287 for the same period in 2019.

The years 2021 and 2019 were used since 2020’s earnings were adversely affected by COVID-19.

The third-quarter numbers for the other GLOW counties are as follows:

Livingston -- $57,738 in earnings and $1,129 in surcharge (September);

Orleans -- $37,144 and $634;

Wyoming -- $36,771 and $671.

Surcharge and earnings distributions for the other GLOW counties for 2021 are as follows:

Livingston -- $100,232 (up from $77,427 in 2019);

Orleans -- $63,187 (up from 51,822 in 2019);

Wyoming -- $63,382 (up from $49,969 in 2019).

October 11, 2021 - 1:20pm

While admitting that mistakes have been made, Genesee County’s representative on the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s board of directors said he has complete faith in the public benefit company’s leadership and sees even greater days ahead for what he calls “an asset to the community.”

“I have been on that board now for 28 years and I’d have to say, frankly, this is the best leadership I have seen in my whole 28 years that I’ve been on the board,” said Richard Siebert, commenting on a pair of recent New York State Comptroller’s audits that cast WROTB in a negative light.

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Chief financial officer: Batavia Downs Gaming in high gear, on track for record earnings distributions

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“I think (President and Chief Executive Officer) Henry (Wojtaszek) is doing a tremendous job, and our officers underneath him are doing a great job. I’ve been very impressed with the leadership and the results in this community.”

Siebert said Park Road facility’s surge in betting handle and event attendance tells him that the public supports the job that management and staff is doing.

“What we’re doing in this community and the response of this community are attributed to what our leadership group and our officers have provided to our county and OTB, in general,” he said.

The longtime Batavian also touched upon a lawsuit filed against Wojtaszek and Board Chairman Richard Bianchi by former officer Michael Nolan.

“I think a lot of this, quite frankly, is politically-motivated,” he offered. “There’s no question that there is a certain ex-Senator that’s always had a beef with Henry – more so with Henry than OTB.”

Siebert was speaking about former State Sen. George Maziarz, who represented Niagara County from 1995-2015 before deciding not to seek re-election due to legal problems. Wojtaszek served as the Niagara County Republican chairman during Maziarz’s tenure.

(See the link to a previous story below).

Regarding the audit, Siebert said he has seen the charges, which pointed to a lack of oversight by the board related to the distribution of sporting events and concert tickets, and the use of company vehicles.

“There were mistakes made before. We’re correcting them. And, again, we were the ones who asked the Comptroller to do the audit and tell us what we are doing wrong, and how we can better ourselves – which we have responded to,” he said.

“One of the problems is that we’re being accused, especially the officers, of using them as their own little boxes. Every time we have an event there, you have to have a host there to oversee the people who are in the box. The host has to make sure it’s clean, they have to pick up the bills, they have to make sure the food is served.”

Siebert said in all of his years on the board he attended only one Buffalo Sabres game.

“People like Henry and (Vice President of Operations) Scott (Kiedrowski) are going, but we have to have staff members at every single event to do the housekeeping,” he explained. “I think that part is all out of context. As far as the officers or directors, like me, using it as their own party, that just isn’t happening.”

Siebert did agree that some people might have problems with the “gold plated” health insurance plans provided to directors.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “I have had health insurance through the board every year since I got on it. It was one of the things provided to me if I wanted to be an OTB director. All of those directors with health insurance have been on the board for years.”

He said the Comptroller’s office reviewed the practice of paying health insurance for directors before “and no one raised an issue with it, until political people and investigative reports did. However, to eliminate any concern for the future, we did as a board vote that any new directors would not get that, period.”

The board, at its June 24, 2021 meeting in executive session, voted 12-0 to eliminate WROTB-sponsored health insurance benefits for board members appointed on or after July 1, 2021.

Siebert said the pay to be on the board is $4,000, calling it not a “real incentive” for some of the directors who have to travel from Oswego, Cattaraugus or Chautauqua counties, for example.

“That (health insurance) was a term of our employment. I took it; I’m not denying it. But, we’ve agreed that it won’t be offered to those joining the board in the future,” he said.

Looking back over the years, Siebert said he is glad WROTB purchased the harness track in 1998 (for $3.2 million).

“I fought to buy that race track because I’m here in Genesee County,” he said. “It wasn’t a done deal as there were four or five other directors who were dead against buying that track.

“It was empty. Seagulls were in it. And Marty Basinait, God bless him, convinced me to do everything I could to buy that track because he said to me, ‘If there’s ever going to be casino gambling, it will be where people are used to gaming’ and, of course, with horse racing here for so many years, it worked out.”

After buying the track, WROTB had to wait for legislative approval to obtain a racing license. That came in November 2001 when the corporation started its Inter Track Wagering operation (simulcasting). Eight months later, it held its first harness racing card.

Basinait served as WROTB chief executive officer for 29 years prior to his retirement in 2011. He was replaced by Michael Kane, who served for five years before retiring. Wojtaszek took over as president and CEO in July 2016.

Fast forward to today and Siebert said he’s amazed at what is taking place.

“Look at what these concerts are doing – for $25 – and the $10 free play. It’s so good for our community, and we’ve had minimal complaints,” he said. “We take care of our neighbors on Redfield Parkway. We don’t get complaints about noises, drugs, alcohol – anything that I’m aware of. It’s just an asset to our community.

Previously: WROTB board chair: Allegations unfounded, President/CEO Wojtaszek receives high marks.

September 16, 2021 - 10:34am

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night voted in favor of several resolutions pertaining to the Park Road Improvement Project – a $4.3 million reconstruction of the busy street that runs between Lewiston Road (Route 63) and Oak Street (Route 98).

Approvals of resolutions by the board at its monthly meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road are as follows:

  • An amendment of a bond resolution of July 21 that increases the amount to be borrowed from $3 million to an estimated maximum cost of $4.3 million “to reflect the full nature of the costs of the project and to handle the higher than expected bids received.”

Town Supervisor Gregory Post said the issuance of serial bonds makes the most financial sense, especially since a large portion of the project cost will be reimbursed by the federal government and New York State.

“This gives us temporary cash flow to be able to pay the bills with the bond money and not having to take it from town accounts,” Post said. “Right now, we’re earning interest on 99.9 percent of the town’s money.”

  • A revised supplemental agreement with the state Department of Transportation that puts the total construction cost at $3,248,915 with the federal share at $2,599,132, the state share at $435,000 and the local share at $214,783, and to include a local share for the watermain and street lighting betterment at a total cost of $1,108,085.

Renovation of Park Road has been part of the town’s plan since December 2009, when it signed the original agreement with the DOT.

  • A contract in the amount of $4,077,000 with Concrete Applied Technologies Corp., doing business as CATCO, of Alden, as the lowest bidder as the general contractor for the project.

Work will consist of the installation of new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road overlaying of pavement and installation of sidewalks on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98, and installation of new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

  • A contract in the amount of $11,200 with Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., of Rochester, to assist the town in the design of the street lighting electrical system and review the estimate of the project.

The board tabled a resolution to amend an agreement with Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., raising the contribution of the parent company of Batavia Downs Gaming from $350,000 to $486,870 for enhanced aesthetics near the facility.

The resolution stipulates that WROTB make three equal yearly installments of $162,290.

Post said negotiations with WROTB are continuing.

In late August, WROTB directors approved allocating $488,000 for the enhancements due to rising costs of conduit, light fixtures and trees.

WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said he hoped to forge a contract with the Town of Batavia for Batavia Downs to maintain trees, street lights and sidewalks, and for snowplowing of that portion of the road.

In other action, the board approved:

  • A contract for $13,250 with Ciurzynski Consulting, LLC, of Attica, for architectural and engineering sub-consultant services for improvements to the Town Hall and highway garage.

Post pointed out several issues with the Town Hall, including heating/air conditioning problems and flooring and the need to reconfigure work space, and with the highway garage, including replacement of the roof and insulation to facilitate cold storage to warmer storage.

  • A contract for $9,500 with Wendel Companies of Rochester to assist in updating the town’s solar law.

Currently, the town is enforcing a moratorium on solar projects while a committee works to formulate a comprehensive solar ordinance. Chaired by Town Council member Chad Zambito, the committee is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 23.

August 26, 2021 - 12:37pm

A new warehouse for its food and beverage operation.

More parking on the former Kmart parking lot.

A potential street maintenance contract with the Town of Batavia in light of the Park Road Reconstruction Project.

Directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. continue to be called upon to approve spending resolutions to enhance the Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel enterprise.

The board, at this morning’s monthly meeting, approved several measures, including spending nearly $1 million to build a new 4,800-square-foot warehouse south of the facility, near Tops Market, and $75,000 for additional parking on the site across the street next to the former Kmart store.

It also will be asked, probably next month, to consider an agreement with the town where Batavia Downs’ crews would take care of maintaining trees, street lights and sidewalks – amenities that WROTB has agreed to pay for during the town’s rehabilitation of Park Road.

WAREHOUSE

WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek said the warehouse project is being done for efficiency and cost savings.

“It’s a project that has been on the drawing board for a long time,” he said. “We actually bid it out in 2019 (and) it was a little higher than we wished to spend on the project. We were looking to spend somewhere close to one million dollars, and now we’re actually financing it for close to one million dollars.”

According to a pair of approved resolutions, the pre-fabricated steel structure will cost $921,712.18 to build, plus another $52,818.63 in engineering and architectural costs via a contract with E I Team Inc. of Buffalo.

Lowest bidders for the construction work are Ed Hulme General Contracting of Warsaw for the concrete foundation/asphalt ($325,545.18), Building Innovation Group Inc. of East Rochester for pre-fabricated steel building ($328,264), Suburban Electric of Albion for electrical/fire/closed circuit television ($143,000), and Crosby-Brownlie Inc. of Rochester for heating, air conditioning and plumbing ($114,900).

“We went back and reduced some of the things we asked for originally in the designs and the drawings, and we re-bid it and it came back at 921 (thousand), which they passed today,” Wojtaszek said. “It allows us to put all of our F&B supplies in one central place; it will be more efficient and it will be cost-effective. It’s something we have talked about for a long time and now it is coming to fruition.”

PARKING

Wojtaszek said he and the board talked at length about the parking situation, agreeing to pay $75,000 for customer parking through next May. The property owner has not been charging Batavia Downs for several years prior to this agreement, he noted.

“We need it basically during the concert season to accommodate the patrons that want to park over there, and then, in the off months during this period of time, we need it because of the warehouse project,” he explained, adding that gaming customers will be able to use most of the parking lot if needed.

The property is owned by 570 DAB 30, LLC (Benderson Corp.), which is looking to develop it in the near future, Wotjaszek said.

PARK ROAD

Back in March, WROTB directors voted to pay the town up to $395,000 for property enhancements as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project that is scheduled to commence this fall.

Costs of conduit, light fixtures and trees have gone up since then, Wojtaszek said, forcing the board to allocate additional funds, bringing the total to $488,000.

He said the total Park Road project price tag exceeds $4 million (around $4.3 million). Most of it is being paid for by New York State.

“We’ve worked very closely with the Town of Batavia … It will be a great addition -- beautification of that road and curb appeal that will extend to our business. We’re very excited about it,” Wojtaszek said.

He also said he expects the board to approve a contract with the town for Batavia Downs’ maintenance crews to take care of maintaining trees, street lights and sidewalks, and for snowplowing of that portion of the road.

In other developments:

  • WROTB will distribute $74,267 in surcharge earnings to member municipalities for July;
  • Batavia Bets, the corporation’s interactive online platform, has took in $12.5 million so far this year, up $2.1 million from the same time in 2020;
  • Directors authorized spending around $170,000 annually over five years to purchase suites from Western New York Arena for Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bandits and other arena events. Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said the corporation saved $27,000 by extending the pact to five years.
August 26, 2021 - 11:25am

scott_k.jpg

Calling it a “success story after success story after success story,” Scott Kiedrowski, vice president of operations for Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning informed directors of Batavia Downs Gaming’s recognition as one of four Arc New York 2021 Employer of the Year Award winners.

“We employ and welcome a number of individuals (from Arc of Genesee Orleans) who have job coaches to acclimate themselves to the building,” he said. “The program has really taken off. It gives these folks an opportunity they may not have in other areas to work, and it has been a success story after success story after success story, with all of those we have brought in to work here.”

Kiedrowski (pictured above) accepted the award on behalf of the corporation on July 29 via a statewide Zoom call.

Batavia Downs was the only business in Western New York honored this year for acknowledging the value of employing people with disabilities. Kiedrowski said between five and 10 people representing the Arc of Genesee Orleans work for the company.

“They start with a job coach and before long, they’re on their own, and it’s been working,” he said. “If ever there was an example of how this is supposed to work, it’s working here.”

In a press release previously posted on The Batavian, Arc of Genesee Orleans Director of Development Shelley Falitico says Batavia Downs has been a longtime friend of the agency, hosting Arc Night at the Races and Arc’s annual awards banquet.

Additionally, several employees from Batavia Downs’ Human Resources department took part in an onsite training – The Benefits of Hiring a Person with a Disability -- at the Arc location on Walnut Street.

The plaque reads as follows: "For demonstrating outstanding commitment and support in providing meaningful employment and acceptance of individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in the workplace."

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: Batavia Downs chosen as one of four statewide recipients of the 2021 Arc Employer of the Year Award

June 24, 2021 - 11:29am

In what is being called a "good faith" gesture initiated by Genesee County's representative to the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., the public benefit corporation's board of directors this morning voted to approve host agreements with the Batavia City School District, Genesee County and Town of Batavia to provide payments totaling more than $200,000 over the next four years.

These payments are being made to the taxing jurisdictions in light of Batavia Downs Gaming's recent purchase of the Hotel at Batavia Downs from ADK Hospitality of Buffalo, thus taking the property off of the tax rolls and negating a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement the entities had with the previous hotel owners.

The breakdown of the payments, which add up to $212,508, reveals that the school district will receive $27,000 for 2021, and the school district, county and town will receive a total of $46,377 for 2022 through 2025. Dissecting the latter amount further, the school district will get approximately $27,000, the county approximately $13,000 and the town approximately $7,000.

"Dick Siebert," replied WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek when asked what prompted the board to propose allocating money to three taxing jurisdictions affected by Batavia Downs Gaming activities. "Mr. Siebert addressed the board and asked them to consider this because he indicated to everybody that we have great relationships with them -- which we do -- and thought it would be a good faith effort to go ahead and do this. It was something that they had counted on because they had a PILOT in place with the former owners of the hotel."

Wojtaszek said the funding covers the amount of the PILOT that would have been in place.

Siebert, a longtime WROTB director and Genesee County election commissioner, said passage of this resolution is "more about the spirit of what we're doing than the actual dollar amount."

"It's not a great deal of money, but it shows than even though we are tax exempt ... it shows our good faith," he said, adding that the county, school district and town have supported the corporation's efforts.

He asked Wojtaszek to formally inform the school superintendent, county manager and town supervisor.

February 25, 2021 - 10:54am

Directors of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning authorized the purchase of the Hotel at Batavia Downs from ADK Hospitality LLC for $8 million.

The action, which was approved by a 13-1 margin with one abstention, provides WROTB with the opportunity to "expand our customer service to our patrons and to our guests who come here," said WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek following the public benefit company's board meeting.

"We had an opportunity to strike an agreement with the current owners and we believe that the price is appropriate and we believe it will help enhance what we have to offer to our guests."

Wojtaszek said WROTB has submitted a financing plan that he feels is "appropriate and reasonable, so now we're going to go ahead and try to complete the deal."

He said he anticipates a closing date sometime in April and is looking forward to be able the market the hotel more extensively.

"We will have a renewed focus on marketing," he said, noting the many tie-ins to the casino such as weddings, trade shows, movie nights and dinner/overnight packages. "Being able to be marketed by us will be a big advantage."

Wojtaszek said the plan is to continue contracting with Hart Hotels to manage the hotel on Park Road.

Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach reported that WROTB will be able to capitalize on historically low interest rates, utilizing 20-year tax exempt bonds to project a savings of $600,000 as it bundles the refinancing of a balloon payment due in October 2023 with the hotel purchase expenditure.

"Being a public benefit corporation, we have to publicly advertise this," she said, adding that she currently is negotiating with Key Bank and Tompkins Bank of Castile.

In November 2016, Batavia Downs Gaming and members of the hotel ownership team cut the ribbon on the 84-room, luxury hotel.

ADK Hospitality LLC is a Buffalo-based development team that purchased land from WROTB in March 2015 and invested $7.5 million to build the facility.

Director Paul Lattimore Jr. (Cayuga County) cast the "no" vote. An email to Lattimore, who joined the meeting via Zoom, has yet be be returned.

Stage Purchase May Lead to More Concerts

WROTB directors also approved a resolution, by a 14-1 vote (with Lattimore voting against it), to purchase the stage and roof truss, along with crowd control barricades and two storage containers from Audio Images Sound & Lighting, a Batavia firm, for use at the corporation's Summer Concert Series at a cost of $129,460.

"This is certainly a good economic move for Batavia Downs. We believe that purchasing this equipment ... will pay for itself within the first two to three years of the purchase. We intend to have concerts for a long time," Wojtaszek said.

"The equipment that we are purchasing is in very good shape and we have a capable maintenance staff here on site that will be able to keep that in good shape for years to come. And we're looking to have more concerts than the six to eight that we've had."

The 2021 concert series has yet to be finalized but two performers have been announced -- Steve Augeri, formerly of Journey, on June 25, and Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles, on July 9.

Other concerts and their tentative dates are Skid Row, June 25; The Machine (Pink Floyd Tribute), Aug. 7.

Wojtaszek said his leadership team is trying to set up more concerts, possibly starting in May. If necessary, they would take place in a "pod" setting, he said, with about 1,500 in attendance instead of 5,000.

Directors approved a related resolution to spend up to $274,000 to pay the Summer Concert Series musical acts.

In other developments, directors:

  • Approved the sale of the McKinley OTB branch in Buffalo to Alaskan Properties I LLC for $900,000.

Wojtaszek said the buyers are a retail business and hopes to close the transaction during the summer.

Leach reported that proceeds will go toward paying down two loans, a letter of credit pertaining to workers' compensation self-insurance and to the capital acquisition fund.

  • Approved an agreement with Cumulus Broadcasting (97 Rock FM) to become the title sponsor the the 97 Rock Tour Bus for April 2021 throught March 2023 at an annual cost of $20,000. 

Benefits to the corporation include hundreds of on-air promotional mentions, the sponsor log and link on the 97 Rock website, ability to distribute promotional coupons, a vinyl wrap of the logo on the tour bus, three "remote location" broadcasts, and four tickets to a suite at a Buffalo Bills game.

  • Received financial reports as follows:

-- WROTB distributed $55,455 in surcharge to the member municipalities for December and will distribute $69,342 for January. The corporation also generated operational earnings of $81,691 in January.

-- Batavia Bets, the company's interactive online wagering platform, saw a 67-percent increase in January, bringing in $581,000, and is up 43 percent in February at $317,000.

Previously: Hotel ribbon cutting officially marks 'transformation' at Batavia Downs Gaming

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