I'd like to see racing at Batavia Downs and probably would get a horse to race there, but Off Track Betting shouldn't be allowed to run a racetrack.
OTB has harmed racetracks in New York State by locating betting parlors in the same areas that tracks draw their customer base from. For example, from my count there are 22 OTB parlors within a 50-mile radius of Buffalo Raceway, most within 25 miles.
Obviously, this is going to take customers away from the track. Combine this with the fact that when a wager is made at the track, the horsemen and the track share 19 cents out of every dollar. When a wager is made at OTB, the track and horsemen share only about 5 cents out of every dollar.
OTB is basically a revenue-gathering arm for government. When politicians talk about the money that they've put into Batavia Downs, it's the public's money they're talking about. It is public money that is used to build parlors, buy Batavia Downs and hire lobbyists to push for a license.
It almost seems as though the government wants to have a monopoly on gaming in this state. Just look at how the state lottery has grown. We can't buy cigarettes from a vending machine anymore, but we can gamble from unattended lottery ticket vending machines. We can't legally bet on a pool game in a bar, but we can bet on Quick Draw.
I constantly hear the Republican Party say that it wants less government in private lives. If this is true, then why is Republican State Sen. Mary Lou Rath pushing to expand government control in racing, to the detriment of privately owned racetracks?
If OTB is going to be allowed to run racetracks, then it is only fair to put the privately owned tracks on the same playing field. Allow them to own and operate OTB parlors. Wipe out the ridiculously high $300 minimum balance on track run phone accounts, and give them the same access to public funds.