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OTB chief may survive coup bid

The odds are better than 50-50 that Martin C. Basinait, who has headed Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation for the past 16 years, will survive a move to oust him.

Basinait, 57, once served on the board that is scrutinizing his performance, and he has strong supporters, including a director from his home county, Orleans. His future will be determined during meetings Jan. 24 and 25 in the betting corporation's Batavia headquarters.

In 1998, Basinait, president and CEO of the betting corporation, engineered the purchase of the then-dormant Batavia Downs for $2.48 million. The corporation became the first of the state's five quasi-public OTB corporations to own and operate a harness racetrack.

After $15 million in renovations, racing returned to the Batavia oval in 2002.

Some members are concerned about rising debt, operating losses and dwindling profits -- blamed in part on a soured economy and the introduction of casino gambling in the region. Over the past three years, deficits have totaled more than $7 million.

However, the red ink is disappearing, thanks to the installation in May 2005 of nearly 600 video lottery terminals. Income from the video lotteries is offsetting racetrack losses and helping to provide larger purses to attract better horses and more racing fans.

The betting corporation's board of directors includes representatives from 15 counties as well as the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Richard E. Siebert of Genesee County and Marcia Touhey of Orleans County are among Basinait's supporters on the board. They say yearly deficits are dropping and a $650,000 profit is possible next year.

Siebert said Friday that opponents don't have the nine votes necessary to oust Basinait.

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