WROTB https://www.thebatavian.com/ en https://www.thebatavian.com/themes/barrio_batavian/images/thebatavian_logo.png WROTB https://www.thebatavian.com/ Local Matters © 2008-2023 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Sun, 19 May 2024 07:29:43 -0400 https://www.thebatavian.com/themes/barrio_batavian/images/thebatavian_logo.png Thu, 22 Jun 2023 08:10:00 -0400 Genesee County a step closer to filing suit against state for violating WROTB Home Rule https://www.thebatavian.com/jfbeck99272012/genesee-county-a-step-closer-to-filing-suit-against-state-for-violating-wrotb-home  

 

Batavia Downs 2014
File photo by Howard Owens.

After a brief discussion with County Attorney James Wujcik Wednesday, county legislators were in favor of taking legal action against the state due to the governor’s recent budget amendment that removed control from founding Western Regional Off-Track Betting counties and gave it to Erie and Monroe counties and cities of Buffalo and Rochester through weighted voting for all of the WROTB members.

“It’s a total disregard to the Home Rule,” Wujcik said Wednesday during the Ways & Means meeting.

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https://www.thebatavian.com/jfbeck99272012/genesee-county-a-step-closer-to-filing-suit-against-state-for-violating-wrotb-home#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/jfbeck99272012/genesee-county-a-step-closer-to-filing-suit-against-state-for-violating-wrotb-home Jun 22, 2023, 8:10am WROTB Genesee County a step closer to filing suit against state for violating WROTB Home Rule jfbeck_99_272012 <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-div align-center"> <div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img alt="Batavia Downs 2014" class="image-style-large" height="506" loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2023-05/batavia-downs-dec-2022.jpg?itok=pwqXEdri" width="800"> </div> </div> <figcaption><em>File photo by Howard Owens.</em></figcaption> </figure> <p>After a brief discussion with County Attorney James Wujcik Wednesday, county legislators were in favor of taking legal action against the state due to the governor’s recent budget amendment that removed control from founding Western Regional Off-Track Betting counties and gave it to Erie and Monroe counties and cities of Buffalo and Rochester through weighted voting for all of the WROTB members.</p><p>“It’s a total disregard to the Home Rule,” Wujcik said Wednesday during the Ways &amp; Means meeting.</p>
WROTB considers proposal from horsemen to have racing in January and February at Batavia Downs https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-considers-proposal-from-horsemen-to-have-racing-in-january-and-february-at 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.

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-considers-proposal-from-horsemen-to-have-racing-in-january-and-february-at#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-considers-proposal-from-horsemen-to-have-racing-in-january-and-february-at Jun 13, 2022, 4:46pm WROTB WROTB considers proposal from horsemen to have racing in January and February at Batavia Downs mikepett <p>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.</p> <p>“While nothing is finalized, we are receptive to the horsemen’s request to having racing here during those</p>
Siebert clears the air about claims of former state senator https://www.thebatavian.com/joanne-beck/siebert-clears-the-air-about-claims-of-former-state-senator/605583 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  

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https://www.thebatavian.com/joanne-beck/siebert-clears-the-air-about-claims-of-former-state-senator/605583#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/joanne-beck/siebert-clears-the-air-about-claims-of-former-state-senator/605583 May 19, 2022, 8:15am WROTB Siebert clears the air about claims of former state senator jfbeck_99_272012 <p>After presenting bid requests for election-related equipment Wednesday, Genesee County Board of Elections Commissioner Dick Siebert put on his personal hat.&nbsp;</p> <p>He wanted to clear the air&nbsp;about the relationship between him and former state senator George Maziarz. <a href="https://www.thebatavian.com/howard-b-owens/former-state-senator-with-his-own-corruption-history-files-lawsuit-against-batavia">This past week Maziarz held a news conference to announce a lawsuit he</a></p>
Former state senator with his own corruption history files lawsuit against Batavia Downs alleging corruption https://www.thebatavian.com/howard-b-owens/former-state-senator-with-his-own-corruption-history-files-lawsuit-against-batavia
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

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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.

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https://www.thebatavian.com/howard-b-owens/former-state-senator-with-his-own-corruption-history-files-lawsuit-against-batavia#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/howard-b-owens/former-state-senator-with-his-own-corruption-history-files-lawsuit-against-batavia May 12, 2022, 10:15pm WROTB Former state senator with his own corruption history files lawsuit against Batavia Downs alleging corruption Howard Owens <p><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/60/2022-04/bataviadownspressermay2022.jpg?itok=tKQ_iXCg" width="460" height="283" alt="bataviadownspressermay2022.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> </p> <p>A former state senator with a history of illegal activity while in office&nbsp;has filed a lawsuit against Batavia Downs and its leadership&nbsp;alleging that officials have engaged in "shameless and blatant corruption."</p> <p>The suit concentrates on previously investigated accusations that officials at Western OTB have misused tickets to sporting events and</p>
Independent audit report gives WROTB passing grade; Don Hoover hired as live racing general manager https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/independent-audit-report-gives-wrotb-passing-grade-don-hoover-hired-as-live-racing 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.

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/independent-audit-report-gives-wrotb-passing-grade-don-hoover-hired-as-live-racing#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/independent-audit-report-gives-wrotb-passing-grade-don-hoover-hired-as-live-racing Mar 24, 2022, 3:56pm WROTB Independent audit report gives WROTB passing grade; Don Hoover hired as live racing general manager mikepett <p>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.</p> <p>Randy Shepard, speaking at this morning’s WROTB board of directors meeting at the Park Road facility, said the corporation’s</p>
WROTB directors approve sewer pipe replacement; Park Road project expected to start in couple weeks https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-directors-approve-sewer-pipe-replacement-park-road-project-expected-to-start
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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.

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-directors-approve-sewer-pipe-replacement-park-road-project-expected-to-start#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-directors-approve-sewer-pipe-replacement-park-road-project-expected-to-start Mar 2, 2022, 2:16pm WROTB WROTB directors approve sewer pipe replacement; Park Road project expected to start in couple weeks mikepett <p><div> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/129907/2022-02/henry_sewer_line_1.jpg?itok=O1uuzsWM" width="460" height="345" alt="henry_sewer_line_1.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> </p> <p>Directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. have approved spending up to $190,212 to install a new sewer pipe extending&nbsp;from the Genesee Park Place apartments to an area in front of the Hotel at Batavia Downs on Park Road.</p> <p>The board, at its meeting last week, approved a resolution to</p>
Ways & Means forwards resolution opposing changes to WROTB board of directors structure https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/ways-means-forwards-resolution-opposing-changes-to-wrotb-board-of-directors

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The 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

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/ways-means-forwards-resolution-opposing-changes-to-wrotb-board-of-directors#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/ways-means-forwards-resolution-opposing-changes-to-wrotb-board-of-directors Feb 2, 2022, 6:11pm WROTB Ways & Means forwards resolution opposing changes to WROTB board of directors structure mikepett <p></p><div class="align-right"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/129907/2022-02/siebert_1.jpg?itok=7clMg-2L" width="58" height="127" alt="siebert_1.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways &amp; 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. <p>“It’s an outrage,” said Committee</p>
Batavia Downs preparing for Park Road project; June 10 concert to benefit Ricky Palermo Foundation https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/batavia-downs-preparing-for-park-road-project-june-10-concert-to-benefit-ricky 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.
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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/batavia-downs-preparing-for-park-road-project-june-10-concert-to-benefit-ricky#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/batavia-downs-preparing-for-park-road-project-june-10-concert-to-benefit-ricky Jan 20, 2022, 12:22pm WROTB Batavia Downs preparing for Park Road project; June 10 concert to benefit Ricky Palermo Foundation mikepett <p>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.</p> <p>“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</p>
WROTB president: Record numbers illustrate the effectiveness of company's board of directors https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-president-record-numbers-illustrate-the-effectiveness-of-companys-board-of

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Directors 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

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-president-record-numbers-illustrate-the-effectiveness-of-companys-board-of#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/wrotb-president-record-numbers-illustrate-the-effectiveness-of-companys-board-of Jan 20, 2022, 11:51am WROTB WROTB president: Record numbers illustrate the effectiveness of company's board of directors mikepett <p></p><div class="align-right"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/129907/2022-01/morgan.jpg?itok=ZW4uRcI8" width="105" height="155" alt="morgan.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> <div class="align-right"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/129907/2022-01/bianchi.jpg?itok=pi6jEMPx" width="95" height="136" alt="bianchi.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> Directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. this morning overwhelmingly approved Board Chair Richard Bianchi and Vice Chair Ed Morgan retaining&nbsp;their leadership positions for another year, firing back at proposed legislation that would change significantly the composition of the board. <p>Bianchi (Monroe County) and Morgan (Orleans County) <em>(in photos, left</em></p>
Genesee's WROTB director slams state senator's attempt to restructure board of directors, place a cap on perks https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/genesees-wrotb-director-slams-state-senators-attempt-to-restructure-board-of

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The 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.”  

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https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/genesees-wrotb-director-slams-state-senators-attempt-to-restructure-board-of#comments https://www.thebatavian.com/mike-pettinella/genesees-wrotb-director-slams-state-senators-attempt-to-restructure-board-of Jan 19, 2022, 6:04pm WROTB Genesee's WROTB director slams state senator's attempt to restructure board of directors, place a cap on perks mikepett <p></p><div class="align-right"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img loading="lazy" src="https://www.thebatavian.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/users/129907/2022-01/tcfhjfwk.jpg?itok=q-lWUeWY" width="460" height="460" alt="tcfhjfwk.jpg" class="image-style-large"> </div> </div> The 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