Update: 9 a.m. 1/20/17
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said that Gov. Cuomo has proposed in his budget to provide $2.25 million from existing state gaming aid payments for Madison County in connection with the opening of the Oneida Nation casino in Chittenango, and also that the governor wants to cut VTL funding outside of Yonkers by $698,000 -- decreasing the statewide amount of VLT funding to $28.6 million.
"We must remember that this is merely a budget proposal by the governor, and now the legislature will get to work on it and I will be keeping a close eye on this," Hawley said.
Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials are troubled about a bill in New York State’s proposed budget that would redistribute available state aid associated with hosting a gaming facility to a county that hosts a tribal casino, but does not receive a percent of the state share of revenue from that casino.
If passed into law, the measure could decrease the amount of state aid distributions to local municipalities that benefit from gaming activities at Batavia Downs, according to WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek.
“If the bill as written should pass, this would not be good for Genesee County," Wojtaszek said following Thursday’s WROTB Board of Directors meeting.
Wojtaszek said that the bill focuses on the situation in Chittenango in Madison County, home of the Native American-owned Yellow Brick Road Casino. Madison County is the only county that receives no state share of the revenue from the casino located within its borders, he noted.
Proponents of the bill believe its passage would provide an equitable distribution of state gaming aid. It would take effect on April 1 and expire on March 31, 2020 to allow for a re-evaluation of the gaming industry in the state.
A summary of the bill’s four sections is as follows:
-- Section 1 would amend the State Finance Law to reduce funds available for distribution to non-host counties in regions hosting a commercial gaming facility by $1.4 million in fiscal year 2018 and $1.55 million in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
-- Section 2 would amend the State Finance Law to provide a county that hosts a tribal casino but does not receive a percent of the state share of revenue from that casino with an annual distribution of $2.25 million.
-- Section 3 would amend the State Finance Law to reduce funds available for distribution to non-host counties in regions hosting a tribal casino by $600,000 in fiscal year 2018 and $500,000 in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
-- Section 4 would amend the State Finance Law to reduce the state aid payment to eligible municipalities hosting a VLT (video lottery terminal) facility by $250,000 in fiscal year 2018 and $200,000 in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
Provisions of Section 4 could negatively impact Genesee County, the City of Batavia and the Town of Batavia -- municipalities that receive VLT funds from the state due to their roles as casino "hosts."
County Manager Jay Gsell said he believes that the dollar amounts in Section 4 of the bill are "global" figures, meaning that the VLT funds distributed to the 18 "host" municipalities across the state would be reduced proportionately.
When contacted about this proposed bill, State Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said he is in the process of reviewing Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget, and would call back with comments.
On a related topic, Wojtaszek also said that a bill that would have increased the percentage of net proceeds that Batavia Downs Gaming would be able to keep was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 31.
“It was vetoed by the governor but we plan to introduce the request to the State Legislature again this year,” he said, noting that the corporation is seeking a jump from 35 percent to 41 percent.
“The primary benefit is that this money would go back to the member communities to help offset taxes and give their residents a reasonable tax rate.”
Wojtaszek said that other gaming facilities have had similar bills passed, and that it is a matter of fairness.
Board Vice-Chairman Thomas Wamp (Livingston County) said the “vendor bill” is crucial to the continued success of Batavia Downs Gaming.
“We’re definitely concerned in light of the new casinos coming, especially del Lago (Resort & Casino in Seneca County), and since Finger Lakes is impacted by this, they will promote more to the west and take some of our customers,” Wamp said.
Wamp and Chairman Richard Bianchi (Monroe County) were unanimously re-elected for another year. They have presided in the top two positions for the past seven years.
In other developments, the board:
-- Reported that $99,187 in surcharges were generated in November for distribution to the municipalities served by the corporation, and that the casino’s EZ-Bet revenue reached the $700,000 mark in December, increasing the total for 2016 to $10 million.
The $10 million mark represents a 12-percent rise from 2015.
-- Announced that a sports autograph show is set for Feb. 18-19. Among the former pro athletes scheduled to attend is Scott Norwood, placekicker during the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl era. Also, officials are making plans for two outdoor concerts in June, with Lone Star and Eddie Money as the headliners.
-- Reported that construction of the new paddock will begin in mid-April and, after a break, will continue with an eye toward completion before the 2018 racing season. The project carries a price tag of $1 million.
-- Authorized a one-year contract with Park Strategies LLC of New York City, a lobbying firm founded by former U.S. Senator Alphonse M. D’Amato at a cost of $5,000 per month.
-- Reported that 38 more games are being added to the casino floor, upping the total to 835.