By Tony Farina
The revamped Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board, including four new members who were in attendance last Thursday but not licensed yet, got a firsthand look at the stunning financial numbers being generated by the public benefit corporation made up of 15 counties and two cities.
The four new members heard a familiar good-news financial story from Comptroller Jacquelyne Leach who reported a “net win” for June of $7.06 million–the highest ever for the month. That total represents the number left over in the video lottery machines after the customers get their money. The June “net win” numbers topped projections by 8 percent.
Leach told board members that $97 million in credits were played in June, up over $9 million from last year, with attendance for the month at Batavia Downs Gaming hitting 80,000, a number that represents an increase of 12,000 from last year.
The member cities and counties receive the earnings and surcharge for their benefit and year-to-date earnings are $4.6 million, a $1.6 million increase from 2022. That’s a very significant financial return to the cities and counties that support the corporation.
The comptroller also noted that the July numbers are expected to show record returns for Batavia Downs Gaming which makes a habit of scoring record numbers that benefit its member cities and counties. This is the public benefit corporation that was overhauled in state budget language led by State Sen. Tim Kennedy of South Buffalo to give weighted voting muscle to the Democratic-controlled counties of Erie and Monroe and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.
The budget language that revamped the hugely successful board is being challenged by the Republican-led counties that have been weakened by the changes, and former Attorney General Dennis Vacco has been hired to sue the state in an attempt to overturn the state budget language approved in May that overhauls the highly successful public benefit corporation, and is seen by some observers as a political coup engineered by Kennedy to further his political agenda with a possible run for Buffalo mayor in his sights. Kennedy is the top fund-raiser in the State Senate with over $2.3 million in his campaign coffers.
The four new members who are on board and the fifth from Schuyler County yet to be named, are expected to be licensed and in place later this month, in time for the full board meeting Aug. 23-24, according to Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
We’ll give you an update on the legal challenge by the former attorney general as soon as that information becomes available.