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Casino at the Fairgrounds hits record high

Proceeds from the video gambling machines at the Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds totaled $75.89 million last year, the largest since the casino opened in 2004.

That take for the fiscal year, which ended March 31, is 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal year.

"We had a couple things going for us," said Ellsworth Gaskill, general manager of the casino. "First, we had a new facility built and opened in August of 2010."

He said the facility -- with its open floor plan, buffet and sports bar with 54 televisions -- helped attract visitors. Also, most of the patrons of the casino off South Park Avenue come from the immediate area.

"As much as the economy is not good, people still like to go out and have a night of entertainment," Gaskill said.

But with the high cost of gas, they're not traveling far. The recession may have helped with the growth of the business, he said.

With the equivalent of $912.7 million wagered on the machines, 91.4 percent -- or $832.7 million in credits -- went to payouts of prizes. The rest, $75.89 million, represents 8.31 percent of what was wagered at the machines.

Nearly 36 percent of that figure, or $27.09 million, is allocated for education, according to the Division of Lottery.

"The money generated by the casino allows us to invest further in our community and provide educational programs" in New York State, Gaskill said.

The rest of the money goes to operate the facility. That includes $31.1 million for operating expenses, $7.58 million each for marketing and for the administration of the video games, and $2.5 million for capital project investments.

The payment to the Town of Hamburg for hosting the facility was $557,000 last year. Erie County received $186,000. That's down from $1.1 million for the town and $371,000 distributed to the county in 2010.

The town has received a total of $5.32 million since the state began making payments to localities in 2007.

Gaskill said the local casino has no say in how much money is paid to host communities.