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June 13, 2022 - 4:46pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, WNY Harness Horsemen's Association, Park Road.

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials are considering a proposal by the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association to conduct 15 or 16 racing dates at Batavia Downs Gaming next January and February.

“While nothing is finalized, we are receptive to the horsemen’s request to having racing here during those two months after learning that Buffalo Raceway (in Hamburg) is not planning to be open then,” WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said. “We want to work with them as long as they will reimburse us for the expense to operate then.”

Wojtaszek informed the public benefit company’s board of directors that the WNYHHA is willing to foot the bill to race in those months in order to give its members a chance to make a living.

Normally, Buffalo Raceway is open from January through mid-July and Batavia Downs runs from mid-July through mid-December, with racing scheduled two or three nights per week.

“Buffalo is not a well-maintained facility at this point,” Wojtaszek said, adding that Batavia’s track is able to handle the additional racing. He estimated that it would cost around $300,000 for the proposed racing dates in the first two months of next year.

He said a decision is expected later this month or in July.

Racing returns to Batavia Downs on July 20 and, currently, is set to run through Dec. 17.

A call to Bruce Tubin, WNYHHA president, was not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

In other developments, Wojtaszek reported the following:

  • WROTB will pay half of the $75,000 cost of new rubber rolled matting for the harness horse stalls, with the WNYHHA taking care of the other half.

The material – 28 sheets of rubber matting, 4 feet wide and 200 feet long – is being purchased from RubberForm Recycled Products LLC of Lockport, the low bidder.

  • WROTB will pay $30,000 to Benderson Development LLC of Buffalo to use the former Kmart lot for additional parking from June 1 through Aug. 31. Wojtaszek said a portion of the lot will be fenced off when construction of the new Starbucks along Route 63 begins.

Starbucks and another retail restaurant will be built on the parking lot in the coming months.

May 19, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Batavia Downs, WROTB, notify.

After presenting bid requests for election-related equipment Wednesday, Genesee County Board of Elections Commissioner Dick Siebert put on his personal hat. 

He wanted to clear the air about the relationship between him and former state senator George Maziarz. This past week Maziarz held a news conference to announce a lawsuit he has filed against Western Regional Off-Track Betting. In particular, Maziarz alleged that Batavia Downs and WROTB officials have engaged in "shameless and blatant corruption."

One of the allegations involved OTB members fraudulently obtaining perks, including health insurance, at the expense of taxpayers. Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek defended the actions of both entities and said he believes that Maziarz is "just a bitter individual" who seems to have a vendetta against Batavia Downs and OTB. 

Likewise, Siebert, who has been a longtime leading member of OTB, wanted to have his say about Maziarz's motivation. 

"I'm just clearly here, I gotta say, and I'm gonna say this publicly, George Maziarz and I have not had a good rapport over the years," Siebert said during the Ways & Means Committee meeting. "When I was chairman, the one year George Maziarz approached me and he threatened me. If I didn't fire this particular guy ... he was a Democrat and George wanted somebody else ... I would never be chairman again.

"Well, I didn't fire him. He was definitely just upset because I would not support it. I understand being in the public eye that you're subjected to this kind of criticism ... I'm proud of what I've done for Genesee County. I'm happy to represent you. So I'm just getting this off my chest."

He recalled when Batavia Downs was in its early stages, and the parking lot and property were filled with seagulls and asbestos. All of that had to be cleaned up and new plans were put in place to create the gaming facility on Park Road, he said.

"I think we've done a great job."

Maziarz alleged that Siebert was involved in texting and/or emailing communications that involved misuse of company funds used for tickets to special events. Anyone who knows Siebert is also aware that he doesn't do such technology, he said. 

"The joke in my office was 'we know Dick didn't do that because Dick doesn't text.' My wife does all the acquisitions. She laughed. She said, 'What is he saying? You can't do emails.' Number one, I never emailed anybody about any tickets. I got accused of owing Genesee County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the health insurance that I had taken for the 28 years I've been here," he said. "It's questionable right now and we're reviewing it. We've had, over the 28 years I've been here, we've had many comptrollers audits and not one of them raised an issue until just recently about the legality of it. So I had health insurance, and I'm not denying that I've had it, everybody else can have it." 

There have been prior audits with some negative findings, and OTB has made changes accordingly, Siebert has previously said. There was a lack of oversight of the distribution of sports and concert tickets and use of company vehicles, he said, and those mistakes have been corrected.

To read more about the Maziarz lawsuit, click here  

May 12, 2022 - 10:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, WROTB, news, notify, George Maziarz.

bataviadownspressermay2022.jpg

A former state senator with a history of illegal activity while in office has filed a lawsuit against Batavia Downs and its leadership alleging that officials have engaged in "shameless and blatant corruption."

The suit concentrates on previously investigated accusations that officials at Western OTB have misused tickets to sporting events and concerts and that Western Regional OTB has improperly provided lucrative health insurance coverage to appointed board members.

George Maziarz, who represented Niagara County in the State Senate from 1995 to 2014 and was once considered one of the most powerful men in Niagara County, expressed some frustration today that none of the allegations against Western OTB, and in particular against his former political ally, Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek, have led to anything more than recommendations for changes in procedures.

"Quite frankly, I'm disappointed that the Attorney General and the United States Attorney, the FBI hasn't done anything yet," Maziarz said during a press conference outside the casino on Park Road. " I keep being told over and over again that they're working on it."

Wojtaszek said that nothing more has come of the allegations -- either because corrective action has been taken or the claims of wrongdoing are not as clear cut as Maziarz represents.

From Wojtaszek's point of view, Maziarz is engaged in a vendetta against Western OTB. He said Maziarz was fired as a lobbyist about eight years ago, was passed over for the CEO position, and Wojtaszek participated in investigations that eventually led to Maziarz's own public corruption conviction. 

"I think he's just a bitter individual," Wojtaszek said during an exclusive interview with The Batavian immediately following the press conference. "He has a vendetta against many individuals and the corporation itself. He's made complaints to every conceivable agency and regulatory body in New York State, and they've all turned down his requests to take action against OTB. They've all investigated and found that nothing was amiss here at Western Regional OTB.

"Whatever remedies or suggestions they had for us to improve our business, we follow them. We will continue to follow them and improve our organization. We hired Terry Connors to do an in-depth look at what was going on here at Batavia Downs. Terry is a well-respected individual within the legal community all across the state. We're very confident in his findings and his suggestions, and we've implemented his recommendations. We'll continue to work with him."

He said Batavia Downs has also hired a compliance company out of Buffalo, headed by a former FBI agent, to review its policies and procedures.

The Lawsuit
Attorneys for Maziarz filed the lawsuit in Niagara County on May 3.  It alleges that Wojtaszek and board members misused and manipulated programs meant to attract patrons to the Batavia Downs Casino by using for themselves tickets to sporting events and concerts. 

For example, according to records, the OTB purchased 5,800 high-end tickets to Buffalo Bills games, Sabers games, and concerts at Darien Lake, and 10 percent of those tickets, worth about $120,000, wound up in the hands of OTB officials and their friends and family members. 

The suit alleges tickets were freely handed out at board meetings and were even used to provide a board member's daughter with a birthday party.

The suit also alleges that Wojtaszek failed to correctly record and report his personal use of a vehicle provided to him by Western OTB.

Western OTB board members are also accused of receiving gold-plated health insurance coverage in violation of state law and contrary to recommendations in a Comptroller's Audit Report, and a report compiled by attorneys hired by Western OTB to review the matter.

The suit states that these actions amount to Wojtaszek and board members using Batavia Downs as a personal ATM to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense with no real public oversite of the agency's policies and procedures.  

"Over time, this almost honor system-like structure led to dishonor, cronyism, and shameless, blatant corruption," the suit states. "The corruption has been normalized, legitimized, and covered up by the Board and a bipartisan network of high-powered consultants and lobbyists hired by CEO Wojtaszek (again, with little oversight by the public) to prevent public scrutiny or reform."

The Response
In his interview today, Wojtaszek defended how Batavia Downs has handled tickets to events.

Batavia Downs acquires tickets as perks for high rollers and special guests, Wojtaszek said.  A host from Batavia Downs typically accompanies these guests to the events. The role of the host is to ensure things go smoothly, that people get their tickets, get into the venue, receive the service expected for the event, and the host takes care of any issues that arise.

"Previously, if you were host, we provided a ticket to the host and then the host was allowed to bring a guest with them," Wojtaszek said. "At that point, they may have brought somebody from a wife, a husband, a son, or a daughter with them. We have since corrected that. Subsequent to the recommendation from the compliance company, it's just a host who takes care of whatever event, hockey game, football game, concert, and I think we're doing it properly now."

He said that the accusation that board members could just casually ask for tickets to Bills or Sabers games at board meetings and receive them misrepresents what actually took place. He said anybody, including board members, could ask for tickets on behalf of patrons of Batavia Downs.  They were not, he said, asking for themselves and friends and family.  However, to help improve the procedure, all requests must now be in writing and clearly state who is receiving the tickets. 

According to the audit report Maziarz cites, Wojtaszek said, "there were thousands of tickets accounted for.  There are a few, 100 I believe, that aren't, which equates to a reasonable amount of money but don't forget, each one of those tickets went to a host to host the game."

As for tickets being used for a birthday party for the daughter of a board member, that never happened, Wojtaszek said.

As for the use of a company car, Wojtaszek said, yes, he failed to complete the proper paperwork to record his personal use of the vehicle, and at the board's instruction, he reimbursed Western OTB $3,000 to resolve the issue.  And yes, he is now receiving a transportation allowance -- Maziarz claims $7,000 -- but Western OTB was already in the process of eliminating agency-owned vehicles for staff when the issue came up.  Besides potential liability, a car allowance for executives is more in keeping with standard practices in the business sector, Wojtaszek said.

As for health insurance for board members, Western OTB has attorneys working on the issue.  The agency does not agree that board members can't receive health insurance coverage.  

While Maziarz says that the Comptroller's Office and a legal firm hired by Western OTB say the practice is illegal, the issue doesn't appear to be that cut and dry. There is an older Comptroller's opinion that says the practice is permissible.  The memo on the topic, prepared by attorneys Gabriel M. Nugent and Robert J. Thorpe for the board, cites the 1978 opinion as well as the later opinion and suggests board members no longer accept health insurance.  It doesn't, as Maziarz claims, call the practice illegal.  

Health insurance, Wojtaszek said, is justified because pretty much every other public benefit corporation in the state offers it, and Batavia Downs operates in a very competitive environment and needs to attract and retain the most qualified board members. 

"What the board does here is some extremely important work," Wojtaszek said. "It is a multi-100-million dollar company that has performed extremely well over the last three to five years and has returned record amounts of revenue to the municipalities that it serves.

"If you're in a business that is very competitive -- which Batavia Downs is -- we have other private-sector casinos that we have to compete with here," he added. "And, by the way, we compete extremely well with them. You need to attract top-level talent to have those people serve on the board. And that's what we have here today. We have many, many excellent board members who have excellent business backgrounds and who lend a great deal to make this organization work. We say the compensation should be set accordingly. This is a competitive industry. It's not like a water district or sewer district. That is a monopoly where there is no competition going on."

The Players
In 2018, Maziarz entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of filing a false instrument and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine. He also admitted to hiding $95,000 in campaign payments to a former staff member accused of sexual harassment. He was initially charged with five felony election law violations. The investigation into Maziarz's activities began with the Morland Commission, which had been formed to investigate public corruption. 

Maziarz was also the subject of an FBI investigation. During the investigation, but before he was notified not to discard records, Maziarz reportedly had his staff shred campaign records going back to 1995.

During the press conference today, when asked about document shredding, he denied such shredding ever took place.

When asked today about his misdemeanor conviction, his first response was that Wojtaszek has one, too. Which is true.  Both convictions stem from the same Attorney General investigation.  Maziarz said both he and Wojtaszek received conditional discharges, which means the record is expunged if they avoid illegal activity for a specified period of time, usually six months.

Wojtaszek has been president and CEO of Western Regional OTB since 2016. Before that, he was the general council. He's been an attorney for 26 years and was active for years in Niagara County Republican politics, including a stint as chair of the county committee. He began his legal career as city attorney for North Tonawanda.

Wojtaszek said he and Maziarz once worked closely together.

Maziarz says the FBI is investigating Western OTB and Wojtaszek.  

In 2019, Batavia Downs officials denied there was such an investigation.  Today, Wojtaszek said the only knowledge he has of an investigation is the claim by Maziarz that a board member has been interviewed by the FBI.  He said he's aware of one other inquiry by the FBI in the past three years and that dealt with a contractor and the purchase of broadcast air time. In that case, the FBI was saying it was Batavia Downs that was getting ripped off.  Wojtaszek said FBI agents have never questioned him about anything related to Western OTB.

The lawsuit wasn't Maziarz's idea, Maziarz said.  He said after a story appeared in a New York Times publication, an attorney for Advocates for Justice contacted him and asked him to be the face of a lawsuit against Batavia Downs on behalf of taxpayers.

Maziarz, a man who admitted to public corruption, said Advocates for Justice specialize in fighting public corruption.

The lead attorney on the case is Arthur Z. Schwartz, the organization's president and founder.  Also signing the filing is Nathan McMurray, the former Delaware North attorney who unsuccessfully ran three times for a congressional seat in the NY-27, most notably losing to Chris Collins, then under indictment himself (he eventually entered a guilty plea) for insider trading. McMurray went to work for the law firm in November 2021.

As Wojtaszek noted, Maziarz has pursued corruption allegations against Western OTB for several years.

The Batavian obtained a copy of a deposition transcript from a confidential source related to a lawsuit filed by Michael Nolan, the former COO of the OTB, that reveals some of the connections between some of the players involved in the legal maneuvering and publicity-seeking of the principals.

Nolan's suit claims he was retaliated against for responding to FOIL requests from the media and others.  Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs has always been transparent and has always complained with the law on requests for public documents.

Nolan was the subject being deposed in the case in January 2021 when his attorney, Stephen Cohen, jumped in and attempted to clarify something his client had said. Cohen ended up talking at length about the connections between himself, Maziarz, and reporter Phil Gambini, who has doggedly pursued corruption allegations at Batavia Downs for several years.

In the deposition, Aaron Saykin, the Western OTB attorney in the case, attempted to uncover a possible connection between Nolan and Maziarz.  Cohen provided the opening because he tried to bill Batavia Downs for a phone conversation he had on behalf of his client with Maziarz.

Cohen said he did discuss Nolan's case with Maziarz but only in the service of trying to get more information from Maziarz that might assist his client's suit. He admitted that he knew Maziarz regularly spoke with Gambini and was likely the source of information that appeared in Gambini's stories about Batavia Downs.

Saykin's questions suggested that Saykin suspected Cohen of trying to plant stories with Gambini, including a March 29, 2019 story about the supposed FBI investigation.  Cohen deflects the questions and denies any interest in press coverage.

He said his only real interest was getting more information from Maziarz.

"I sought to get whatever I could out of Senator Maziarz," Cohen said according to the transcript.

Mr. Saykin: Because you knew he was pissed at Henry?

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

Mr. Saykin: And you knew he wanted to hurt Henry?

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

Photos by Howard Owens

bataviadownspressermay2022-2.jpg

During the first several minutes of the press conference this afternoon in the back parking lot of the former Kmart building, across the street from Batavia Downs, two Batavia Downs work trucks paraded up and down Park Road and through the parking lot (Park Road is undergoing reconstruction) and honked their horns, disrupting the press conference. Maziarz called the action sophomoric and evidence that Western OTB officials want to prevent the public from finding out what is going on at the facility. Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said when he found out what was going on with the trucks, he put a stop to it.

March 24, 2022 - 3:56pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, The Bonadio Group.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, County Legislature, Batavia Downs Gaming.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, Batavia Downs Gaming.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Downs Gaming, WROTB.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Downs Gaming, WROTB.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, Batavia Downs Gaming.

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 - 1:30pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, batavia downs gaming & hotel, WROTB.

batavia_downs_front.jpg

With attendance of more than 625,000 and wagers approaching $700 million this year alone, Batavia Downs Gaming has established itself as a regional pastime and -- as the driving force behind Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. -- a significant source of revenue for Genesee County and the 16 other municipalities that it serves.

Gaming in Batavia is at a fever pitch, said Jacquelyne Leach, chief financial officer for WROTB, the public benefit company that owns the Park Road gaming and harness horse racing track as well as The Hotel at Batavia Downs.

---------------

Genesee’s WROTB Director Addresses Recent Issues

---------------

casino_logo.jpg“We’re anticipating record third-quarter earnings distributions of about $3 million, and we’re not done closing out September numbers,” Leach said. “When you add in the $1.2 million in earnings distributions from the first two quarters, this year is going to approach the $4.4 million generated in 1995 – and that was during the heyday of pari-mutuel wagering at OTB parlors.”

Although harness racing’s popularity has decreased over time – it once was the only “game” in town -- the sport serves a vital purpose in the overall scheme of things, Leach pointed out.

“As of right now, we have to have a valid racing license to secure our video gaming license,” she said. “If you don’t have a racing license (through the New York Gaming Commission), you can’t have a video gaming license.”

WROTB operates 27 off-track betting branches, 26 E-Z Bet locations and a telephone wagering service in 15 Western New York counties. As dictated by legislation, it contributes a portion of earnings plus surcharges to those counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Leach said municipalities also earn monthly revenue from what is known as surcharge. Thus far in 2021, more than $450,000 have gone out in surcharges with another $130,000 or so expected for the third quarter, she advised.

$109,000 TO GENESEE COUNTY IN 2021

Genesee County will receive approximately $93,000 in earnings and $16,000 in surcharge for 2021, Leach predicted, adding to the nearly $13 million it has received from WROTB revenue since 1974. The other GLOW counties of Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming are among the member municipalities.

In her 33rd year at the Downs, Leach explained that 5 percent of winning wagers made at WROTB/E-Z Bet locations is distributed to the member municipalities based on the member’s “proportionate handle and population to WROTB as a whole.”

“For wagers placed at racetracks within New York State, 50 percent of the surcharge is distributed to the municipalities in which the racetrack is located (in this case, Genesee County) and 50 percent is distributed to the other participating member municipalities,” she said.

All of these distributions are separate from what Batavia Downs Gaming generates in sales taxes that go into Genesee County’s coffers.

“Things are really ramping up,” Leach said, reasoning that people are staying closer to home to whet their gambling appetites. “Since COVID, people aren’t traveling as much to Las Vegas. It’s more of a localized, 2-2 ½ hour drive. So, we’ve become a regional destination.”

The Bennington resident said the corporation keeps about 8 percent of the total played at the Video Lottery Terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming and through Inter Track Wagering, which, from 2001-2020, totaled a staggering $8.45 billion.

“Generally speaking, patrons have about a 92 percent chance of winning, with pari-mutuel (OTB branches, etc.) bettors having about a 75 percent chance of winning,” she said.

LEACH: ‘FOCUSED ON TASK AT HAND’

Calling it “an incredible turnaround from 2020,” Leach credited the Batavia Downs Gaming staff for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

“I can’t say enough good about the WROTB staff. Our employees work hard and are dedicated. They definitely are our best assets,” she said.

The corporation lists 385 full- and part-time employees, Leach said, with an annual payroll of about $12.5 million.

Leach (salary of $157,000) is one of four officers, the others being Scott Kiedrowski, vice president of operations ($119,000); William White, vice president of administration ($119,000), and Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer ($212,000).

“As part of the upper management team, our responsibilities have grown over the years and, despite a lot of negative stuff, we have stayed focused on the task at hand – to provide a good experience for all who enter Batavia Downs Gaming,” Leach said. “We want them to come back and have a great time here. And I think that we’re very customer service oriented, and I think, that based on the numbers, we’re certainly doing something right.”

The “negative stuff” that she was referring to includes recent audits by the state Comptroller’s Office that pointed to a lack of oversight by WROTB’s board of directors regarding distribution of sporting event tickets and use of a company vehicles from 2016-2019.

Audit findings have prompted Democratic Party leaders in Niagara County to call for criminal investigation into the way the public benefit company is operated.

LAWSUIT BY EX-EMPLOYEE CONTINUES

Additionally, Wojtaszek and Board Chair Richard Bianchi are defendants in a lawsuit by a former WROTB officer Michael Nolan, who claims he was terminated from his job without proper cause, and the board of directors has been maligned in the press for accepting health insurance policies that cost the corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual premiums.

Wojtaszek said the lawsuit is “personally and politically driven” but it won’t deter him and his staff from focusing on “great customer service.”

“That’s why we’ve been successful,” he said.

Concerning the audits, he said WROTB directors asked the Comptroller to conduct it and to provide recommendations.

“We’re following those recommendations; we know that we can always improve,” he said.

On the health insurance issue, he said that the board received “differing opinions on whether or not it is allowed,” but decided to remove it going forward as a “show of good faith to address a situation that kept occurring.”

In June, directors voted unanimously to discontinue giving health insurance to board members appointed after July 1, 2021.

He praised the work of the board, stating that the “fruits of directors’ labor” are the record numbers being achieved.

Leach defended the board as well, noting that they receive just $4,000 per year in salary.

“Really, for such a multifaceted and dynamic corporation? That is dictated by the racing and pari-mutuel statute that was put in place many, many moons ago,” she offered. “Board members haven’t gotten a raise for as long as I have been here, and I’m in my 33rd year.”

CONSOLIDATING OTB BRANCHES

Directors have made forward-thinking decisions, Leach mentioned, notably the purchase of the hotel earlier this year from a private investment group, appropriating necessary funding to the Summer Concert Series and expanding programming and dining options to ensure a multifaceted entertainment venue.

She said directors approved the closing of several OTB branches in an effort to cut losses and streamline the operation.

When asked if the track and OTB parlors have been losing propositions, she acknowledged that in “years past, yes, although I will say that in 2021, our branches are doing much better.”

“We closed six OTB locations in 2020 and a lot of that handle from those six locations has transferred either to Batavia Bets, our online wagering, or to other brick-and-mortar OTB branches or EZ Bet facilities,” she said. “Actually, our branches and E-Z Bets are doing quite well right now.”

She wouldn’t speculate about the future of harness racing, other to say that a shortage of race horses is hurting the industry.

“As far as live racing goes, it’s a very expensive venture,” she said.

Leach said that the corporation is working within “a somewhat antiquated” OTB model developed back in the late 1960s.

“So, we’ve tried to cut costs there by consolidating our branch operations, closing and consolidating our handle, opening the E-Z Bets and opening Batavia Bets (online platform),” she said. “Batavia Bets has been successful ever since we opened it in 2012, but especially when COVID hit. That really took off because it was a way for patrons to wager as nothing was open.”

CONTRIBUTING TO LOCAL CAUSES

Beyond entertainment, wagering and earnings distributions, WROTB is an active contributor to charitable causes.

Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said the corporation gives back around $50,000 annually through donations, sponsorships and fundraisers.

“Since the hotel was constructed we have provided hundreds -- and I do mean hundreds -- of certificates for stay and plays for local fundraisers, charity auctions and similar type events,” Hasenauer said. “Those offers include a hotel night, free play and free food and are valued at over $250 each.  These are offered as prizes at an organization’s event which they use to raise money for their work.  So far this year we’ve given out over 200 of these.”

Hasenauer said organizations that have benefited from WROTB events include Make-A-Wish Gala, the Batavia Police Department K-9 Unit, the Genesee County K-9 Unit, GLOW YMCA, Food Bank of Western New York and the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.

“We have also been a partner with many organizations, firstly as a place for them to hold large fundraising and outreach events,” he said, mentioning Red Cross, Connect Life, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “And we have partnered with organizations for them to benefit from being a part of our major events.”

He said the summer concerts generated funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, Make A Wish, Genesee County Animal Shelter and others.

batdownshotelcot132016.jpg

horses.jpg

three_dog_night.jpg

bdmakeawish.jpg

File photos: Batavia Downs Gaming entrance on Park Road, The Hotel at Batavia Downs, harness horse racing action, Three Dog Night in concert, contribution to Make A Wish. 

October 11, 2021 - 1:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Downs Gaming, Richard Siebert, WROTB.

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.

------------------

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

-----------------

“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 23, 2021 - 11:29am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB, New York State Comptroller's Office.

The president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning said that stronger policies and procedures have been put into place in light of audits by the New York State Comptroller’s Office that revealed the public benefit company failed in its oversight of perks distributed and in prompt reimbursement for personal use of an official vehicle.

The audit findings were released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who said WROT “needs to clean up its operations.”

“Revenues from the OTB are supposed to go to participating municipalities, not to give board members and employees generous perks and other benefits,” he stated in the report. “The board said they are acting on our recommendations and I urge them to continue to tighten oversight and eliminate questionable spending.”

WROTB President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek, speaking after the organization’s board meeting today, said new controls and record keeping policies have been made.

“We have issued a policy that is a very good policy,” he said. “We welcome the Comptroller’s input and we will continue to improve upon our protocols.”

Wojtaszek said the WROTB board has provided an answer to the Comptroller’s Office, which is included in the audit report.

According to the first audit, WROTB (the parent company of Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel) spent at least $121,000 on tickets to sporting events, concerts, food and alcohol for board members, employees and other individuals without the oversight required by state rules. A second audit released found that Wojtaszek did not reimburse the organization for his personal use of an official vehicle in a timely manner.

DiNapoli reported that both audits “found lax oversight of operations by the board of directors, a troubling tone at the top of the organization for establishing and following the rules, and poor documentation.”

He also urged WROTB to seek reimbursement for tickets and other expenses that were distributed improperly.

The first audit examined the corporation’s marketing and promotional operations from September 2017 through December 2019 which featured giving free tickets to Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans games and to area concerts.

While this is permitted by the state Gaming Commission, this practice also requires WROTB to “submit an annual marketing plan identifying who may receive promotions and keep information on who received the complimentary items.”

The audit states that the corporation’s board approved almost $1.3 million on leases for suites at sporting venues, concert tickets and food and beverages, but failed to keep accurate records of at least $121,000 worth of these perks given to board members, employees and others.

Specific mention was made of a hockey game on Nov. 23, 2018 when the board chairman (Richard Bianchi) received six tickets and the vice president of operations (Scott Kiedrowski) received nine tickets, and another hockey game on Dec. 29, 2018, when the board chairman received four tickets, and five tickets were given to another board member and five other tickets were recorded as given to “host.”

As a result, auditors recommended that WROTB do the following:

  • Develop and adopt a written policy and procedures for the distribution of tickets and who is eligible to get them.
  • Seek reimbursement for tickets and food and beverages if not appropriately given.
  • Define in the marketing plan what groups or categories of complimentary items, including tickets, will be given out as required by state regulations.
  • Develop a system to maintain a complete, detailed, and accurate record of tickets distributed.

The second audit, covering a period of four years to April 2020, found that Wojtaszek did not track his personal use of his official vehicle and keep mileage logs, as all employees were required to do. He also did not pay the annual fee of $260 paid by other employees.

He later reimbursed the OTB $3,484 after an internal auditor found that he was not following the OTB’s policy.

Key recommendations in this case are as follows:

  • Ensure all employees who are assigned take-home vehicles complete and file accurate weekly mileage logs.
  • Require employees to reimburse the OTB for personal use in a timely manner.

In response to the audits, Bianchi wrote two letters to the Comptroller’s Office, outlining plans of action.

Summarizing, he wrote that the WROTB board has implemented a new procedure to provide for better tracking of “charitable tickets,” with continued updates “in respect to ticket distribution” for the board’s review and adoption, and will conduct a review of the prior ticket distribution to see if any tickets were given “to a non-eligible person,” and, if so, will seek reimbursement.

Also, the annual marketing plan will be expanded to specify “groups and categories of eligible complimentary items, including tickets, and the basis for such distribution,” with all tickets to be logged into a “dual recording system to ensure accuracy and proper distribution.”

As far as reporting of the use of personal vehicles, Bianchi wrote that the board is reviewing its motor vehicle use policy to “include the elimination of take-home vehicles for assigned WROTB employees” but, in the meantime, “a procedure has been established to ensure that a supervisor or officer is assigned the responsibility to review the vehicle logs monthly to determine and collect any reimbursement from the assigned employee for personal use of the vehicle.”

He also reported to the Comptroller’s Office that Wojtaszek, in April 2019, reimbursed the company $3,484 for personal use of an assigned vehicle for the period of July 2016 through April 2019 and, after further review by an internal auditor, another $528 last month for vehicle use from June 2016 through January 2017.

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
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Downs Gaming, Arc GLOW, WROTB.

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

August 17, 2021 - 1:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, WROTB.

The lawyer representing Michael Nolan, the former chief operating officer at Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., is suing for $14.5 million following his client’s termination last December.

The 23-page document filed Aug. 12 in U.S. District Court Western District of New York by attorney Steven M. Cohen of HoganWillig, PLLC, names Richard Bianchi, chairman of the WROTB board of directors, and Henry Wojtaszek, WROTB president and chief executive officer, as defendants.

The suit is asking for Nolan to receive $4.5 million for violating his First Amendment rights, another $4.5 million for breaking the state’s Civil Service Law and an additional $5.5 million for emotional pain and suffering.

Nolan, who lived in Elma at the time of his employment, now resides in West Palm Beach, Fla. The lawsuit is requesting that the matter be settled by a trial by jury.

As reported on The Batavian last December, following Nolan’s firing from a job that paid more than $100,000 per year, Cohen said that his client had been ostracized and shut out of OTB developments since April of 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.

Also, at that time, Daniel Oliverio of Hodgson Russ, the attorney representing WROTB, disputed the allegations, stating that evidence gained through months of examination and interviewing of more than 30 witnesses did not substantiate Nolan’s claims, and that his termination was carefully considered and appropriate as it pertains to job performance.

The Batavian placed calls to both lawyers today seeking comment on the recent filing of the suit, which follows up Cohen’s previous civil action that sought “at least $5 million in damages” for Nolan.

The updated suit calls for $14.5 million in compensatory damages plus Nolan’s reinstatement to his former COO position, reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, damages sustained due to the violation including, without limitation, the compensation for lost wages, benefits and other remuneration, and payment of all reasonable costs, disbursements, and attorney's fees.

Previously: WROTB fires chief operating officer who files Notice of Claim seeking $5 million in damages

July 22, 2021 - 12:08pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Downs Gaming, Blue Zone at 34 Rush, WROTB.

connie_and_thurman.jpgUpdate: July 22, 5 p.m.

Contacted later today, Thomas said he's excited to continue his longstanding relationship with Batavia Downs.

"It's a great organization to work with and I love dealing with the guests who come to the gaming facility and the harness track," he said, adding that he may be in Batavia next week.

-------------------

Directors of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning extended the marketing agreement with former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas for another 18 months, voting to pay the Pro Football Hall of Famer a stipend of $10,000 per month to promote Batavia Downs Gaming and the harness horse racing track.

The per month cost to WROTB is down from the parties’ previous contract, but the relationship with Thomas – although different in scope – continues to be a strong one, WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek said.

Thomas has been a key “face” of Batavia Downs Gaming for nearly 10 years, joining forces with the public benefit corporation in November 2011. The contract stipulates that Thomas appears at all of the Buffalo Bills games on behalf of WROTB and at the Park Road facility for events throughout the year.

He also has a social media presence, appears at the Blue Zone at 34 Rush, and allows the corporation to use his likeness to promote the bar, Wojtaszek said.

Although he didn’t disclose the previous contract amount, Wojtaszek said the reason for the decrease is that Batavia Downs personnel “has picked up some of the things that he did for us before, a lot of the advertisements.”

“He still will do some for us, but the things that we’ve asked him to do will have gone down,” Wojtaszek said. “We believe that he’s a very positive, strong presence for us in the community. He’s a well-liked and respected individual and we’re proud to have a relationship with him. It’s just a little bit different.”

When asked if Thomas eventually would be phased out due to increasing in-house promotions, Wojtaszek said that wasn’t going to happen.

“We’ve all grown together. If you look at Batavia Downs back in 2013, and you look at the numbers and the reputation in the community – it’s only grown and he’s a big part of that,” he offered. “We want to continue to have a good, strong relationship with him, but it’s just changed.”

Wojtaszek said Thomas has other business interests in the community, and the pact with Batavia Downs is “an exclusive one relative to the casino industry.”

“We very much value our relationship and the board does as well as it was a unanimous vote to keep him,” he said.

Other resolutions passed at today’s Board of Directors meeting:

  • The exclusion of a Paycheck Protection Program loan in the amount of $3,151,700 from the corporation’s 2021 revenue. It was announced that the loan --which was granted to pay various expenses, including payroll as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic -- has been formally forgiven by the federal government.

“That is done that way for accounting purposes,” Wojtaszek said. “It (the loan) was a good thing for the company; it came at a perfect time. We used it for its exact, intended use.

“We saved jobs and we saved the company going forward, and we’re very appreciative of the local bank that we dealt with – The Bank of Castile – and the SBA (Small Business Administration) that worked along with us.”

Wojtaszek credited Comptroller Jacquelyne Leach and her staff for providing the documentation necessary to make sure the loan was forgiven.

“In the end, there was a requirement of using 70 percent for payroll purposes, and I believe that we were in the 90s – 93 percent went for our payroll,” he said.

  • Purchase of eight Metrolite kiosks and two Monte Carlo kiosks for $94,256 from the California-based Olea company that more efficiently allows gaming patrons to receive prizes and reprint Players Club cards.

“We have kiosks on the floor currently … they’re very effective but the ones that we have are outdated,” Wojtaszek said. “We could use a few more to help supplement people who need help at the Players Club, and we also have a couple that we never had before (Monte Carlo-type) that will allow people to print their Players Club cards for the first time right from the kiosk.”

  • Creation of a Director of Sales position at the Batavia Downs Hotel to sell hotel packages, catering events and sponsorships relating to concerts there. Wojtaszek said the salary will be around $60,000.

The employee will be responsible for facilitating promotional packages for customers that tie in the gaming and harness horse racing operations.

  • A contract with Keeler Construction Co., of Albion, for $28,000 for paving work on the east side of the horse barns along Richmond Avenue. Directors commended Live Racing Director Todd Haight for handling negotiations that resulted in a $5,000 decrease from the original estimate.

Directors tabled a resolution that would have permitted the marketing department to enter into a five-year agreement with WNY Arena to purchase tickets to Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits games and concerts.

The annual cost to WROTB would have started at $170,000 and escalated by $2,000 each year for the duration of the contract. The measure was tabled after Director Ken Lauderdale (Wayne County) proposed a three-year agreement, citing a “dynamic” sports environment where ownership of teams is subject to change.

Although Lauderdale’s amendment died for a lack of a “second,” Board Chair Richard Bianchi (Monroe County) requested tabling the matter and that was approved.

Wojtaszek said ticket arrangements such as this are important to the operation’s customer service strategy, rewarding “customers who are loyal to us and really want to see these games.”

“We streamline the process to make sure it is much more efficient and in line with compliance regulations,” he said, adding that some of the tickets are raffled. (Marketing Director) Ryan (Hasenauer) does a great job in administering the program.”

Batavia Downs Gaming has a similar ticket purchasing agreement with the Buffalo Bills, but that contract is not up at this time, Wojtaszek said.

It was reported that the corporation allocated $68,392 in surcharge revenue to its municipalities for June, and second quarter earnings were $1,051,606. Wagering though Batavia Bets, the online platform, was down by $215,000 in June and is down by $371,000 so far this month.

File photo: Thurman Thomas and Connie Penkszyk, of Batavia, at the November 2016 ribbon cutting of the Hotel at Batavia Downs. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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