By Henry F. Wojtaszek
As the only municipally owned gaming facility in New York State, Batavia Downs Gaming is not only a strong economic driver for Western New York, but it provides critical funding for community development, which creates jobs, keeps Western New York families safe and helps to offset tax increases for residents.
We are owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo. Since our inception, Batavia Downs Gaming has generated over $215 million to 17 municipalities; over $86 million to Erie County and $20 million to Niagara County alone.
While other gaming organizations complain about their responsibilities to the community, we are proud to have such an important role in reducing taxes, funding our local schools and ensuring our law enforcement officials have the tools they need to keep us safe.
We are working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders in Albany to ensure that we can increase our impact for Western New York families.
Unfortunately, Batavia Downs Gaming is losing critically needed revenue because we pay the highest tax rate of any Western New York gaming facility. Legislation has passed the State Senate and Assembly by overwhelming bipartisan majorities to enact a statutory change in the tax code to ensure tax fairness.
We believe it is unfair that private business owners, who personally profit from these facilities, pay a lower tax rate on their gaming facilities. If Batavia Downs Gaming was taxed at the same rate as other private gaming facilities in Western New York, our community development contributions to our counties and cities could have been $2.7 million more over the last four years.
This issue is simply about fairness. Western New York taxpayers own Batavia Downs Gaming, and because of complications in the tax code, private business owners have a better rate than taxpayers. That needs to change.
The need for our critical funding couldn’t be more important to local taxpayers, since the Seneca Nation is refusing to fulfill its financial obligations and Niagara leaders are considering tax increases.
We are proud to have a wonderful partnership with the governor and our local elected leaders. Both Democrats and Republicans across the state understand the important economic impact Batavia Downs Gaming has in Western New York. We employ 480 people from the community, we pay substantive wages with benefits to our union and non-union employees, and the spinoff business and employment translates to millions of dollars in local economic impact.
We understand our responsibility to taxpayers, and we are looking forward to increasing our financial contributions to our community, which can be seen and felt across Western New York.
Henry F. Wojtaszek is president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming.