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OTB is closing downtown parlor

In a move that reflects the decline in downtown's daytime population and the gambling patterns of the public, Western Region Off-Track Betting Corp. announced plans Tuesday to close its betting and simulcasting parlor at 11 E. Mohawk St. after Saturday afternoon's televised horse races.

The move marks the end of a 35-year downtown presence for WROTB, which started when the first parlor opened on East Huron Street in May 1974. It moved to a former Wendy's restaurant on East Mohawk Street about 18 years ago. The betting agency also once operated downtown parlors on Delaware Avenue and in Ellicott Square.

WROTB also will close its State Street office in downtown Rochester on the same day.

"There's just no traffic down there," said Michael Kane, vice president of operations and live racing at WROTB's headquarters in Batavia.

Kane said the Buffalo and Rochester parlors each lost about $80,000 last year and were projected to lose about $125,000 each in 2009.

The closings reduce the OTB network to 38 branches in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and parts of 15 of the 17 counties in the Western Region. Kane said there were as many as 73 branches open in the early 1980s.

Kane said no employees will lose jobs in this week's closings, although a few full-timers have been reduced to part-time.

He said other Buffalo-area branches have cut back their hours and days of operations, adding that "we're looking at" possible future closings.

"If this trend continues, we'll likely have to close more branches," Kane said.

e-mail: rsummers@buffnews.com

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