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LEGISLATURE BACKS OTB'S BID FOR BATAVIA RACE DATES

The Genesee County Legislature Wednesday threw its support behind Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp.'s bid for 1999 race dates at Batavia Downs.

A motion by Charles R. Ruffino, R-Batavia, called on the state to back OTB's request for up to three months of late-summer and early-fall harness racing at the track, which OTB purchased last September.

The resolution is at odds with the Erie County's Legislature, which earlier this month asked the State Legislature to bar the reopening of the Batavia track.

Ruffino said there may be truth in Buffalo Raceway's assertion that Western New York cannot support two racetracks.

"If that's true," he said, "why not Batavia as the only track? It's located midway between two major markets, Buffalo and Rochester."

Batavia was dark last year for the first time since World War II. The financially troubled operation was sold to OTB for $4.5 million. Since the purchase, OTB has moved its downtown betting parlor to the track, and plans to relocate its corporate headquarters there.

However, the race dates are being sought to make the operation financially feasible and to provide more opportunities for horse racing.

Ruffino noted that Genesee County and the City of Batavia gain $180,000 a year from the racing operation, and that, he added, is "a lot of economic development."

The Legislature wants state officials to urge the Racing and Wagering Board, which governs harness racing, to permit live racing at Batavia Downs, which opened in 1940 -- two years before the Hamburg track.

In other business:

The Legislature again designated the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce as the county's official tourism agency. It also allocated up to $200,000 for publicity and tourism services. The money comes from the county's 2-year-old bed tax, which County Manager Jay A. Gsell said amounted to $191,000 to 1998.

The Legislature approved the purchase of laptop computers for the Genesee County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Gary T. Maha said two to three 3 of the computers, which cost $3,692 per unit, will be purchased from RCS Corp. of Nashua, N.H.

"If they work out," he said, "we may have as many as 15 for our road patrols."

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