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BATAVIA DOWNS COULD START SEASON
BY NOVEMBER, SAY OTB OFFICIALS

Off-Track Betting officials hope to resume a shortened racing season at Batavia Downs by November.

The new season will run from November to January, if special state legislation is signed into law by Gov. George E. Pataki. A typical season before the racetrack closed in 1998 ran from August to January.

OTB leaders told Genesee County legislators Wednesday night that without their help, the track did not have a chance to reopen.

"It was a Herculean effort," said Marty Basinait, president and chief executive officer of Off-Track Betting. "It took three years to get it done."

Genesee County had agreed not to collect from OTB a surcharge of $200,000 a year for the next five years to operate Batavia Downs. Richard Siebert, Genesee County OTB director, said such backing helped make the reopening a potential reality.

"Over the last 12 months, I've had concerns about where it was going," Siebert said of the effort to reopen the track. "I thought it was a real stretch."

He said state lawmakers representing racetracks throughout the state had to be persuaded to support the reopening of Batavia Downs. OTB offered Buffalo Raceway $300,000 a year for five years for its support in the effort to reopen the track.

"Every time we thought we had something under control, someone else said, 'What about this?' " Siebert said.

He said that some members of the Off-Track Betting board of directors took some heat in their home areas for supporting Batavia Downs.

OTB leaders said an estimated $3.1 million has been invested in track improvements. They said $2.5 million was invested in overall facility improvements, while $600,000 was used for asbestos-removal work.

"We will all benefit," said Mary Pat Hancock, Legislature chairwoman.

OTB leaders said if the governor signs the bill by the end of month, it will take 90 to 120 days to ready the track for reopening. The governor is expected to sign it.

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