WROTB Expected to Deliver ‘Windfall’ to Niagara County

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By: Tony Farina

Niagara County officials are expecting another major infusion of dollars from Batavia Downs Gaming/Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) before the end of the year as a result of the record profits being generated by the agency, money that will be used to reduce the tax levy.

Just last week, Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB delivered a contribution of $178,818 to the county as part of the year-to-date distribution to the 15 counties and three cities that make up the public benefit corporation headquartered in Batavia.  It represents the most given to Niagara County for the period in 20 years.

 “We expect the total for the year will be north of $300,000,” said Legislator Rich Andres (R.- North Tonawanda), “and that would represent a significant windfall over the $200,000 we had budgeted from WROTB.    We wish them continued success.”

In a statement, Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB said, in part, the money “provides critical funding for community development and helps create jobs, keeps Niagara County families safe and helps to offset tax increases for residents.”  Since its inception, the municipally-owned and operated gaming facility has delivered more than $20 million to Niagara County.

The highest-ever year-to-date contribution to Niagara County was the result of Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB’s record quarterly earnings of $1.7 million.

Commenting on the Niagara County distribution specifically, Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB, said “thanks to our success, we are able to reduce the tax burden, help fund our local schools and ensure our law enforcement officials have the tools they need to keep us safe.”

Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB is putting up record numbers despite a series of charges leveled against the agency by former Republican State Sen. George Maziarz who once worked closesly with Wojtaszek, the former GOP chairman of the county.

Maziarz, a longtime political kingpin and power broker in Niagara County, pleaded guilty in March of 2018 to filing a false instrument in order to allow him to secretly pay a former staffer, a misdemeanor, and left office under a cloud when he announced in July of 2014 that he wouldn’t seek re-election as federal investigators were in the midst of probing his campaign spending. 

Among the charges leveled by Maziarz were irregularities in promotional activities at Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB under Wojtaszek, but as we reported in June, state gaming inspectors found no problems and in fact approved the ticket giveaway programs, known as “Suitestakes,” for the 2019 year.

Also, in May, the WROTB approved a resolution inviting a state audit of their books, and in fact state auditors have begun work on that review of the financial operations of the agency.

In that resolution, the audit request was intended as a reaffirmation of the board’s commitment to transparency, noting that since its inception, OTB generated over $231 million in operating and surcharge revenues to taxpayers of participating municipalities and helped create hundreds of jobs.

To date, none have Maziarz’s charges have stuck, including allegations of bid-rigging in a Niagara County contract that is now under review by a special prosecutor.

Despite the negative press driven by the Maziarz attacks, WROTB is having a banner earnings year, including record wagering on Kentucky Derby day of $2,039,088.  

“We are grateful to have such wonderful partners in the Niagara County Legislature,” said Ryan Hasenauer, director of marketing for WROTB.  “Our success is truly a team effort and we are proud to work for an organization whose contributions can be seen and felt across Niagara County and all of Western New York.”

 

**attorney advertising**

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