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Vote backs enhanced gambling

The Genesee County Legislature voted Wednesday to support Batavia Downs and eight other racinos in their quest for enhanced casino gambling, which would add table games to the video lottery terminals now in use.

A resolution states that passage of a constitutional amendment to permit expanded gambling will create $94 million in construction and hundreds of jobs at the Batavia Downs Casino. Batavia installed "slots" in 2005.

Since 1998, Batavia Downs has been owned by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation with sites in 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. Since it was formed in 1973, the corporation has generated more than $209 million, which is shared by the state, the tracks and OTB municipal members. From its headquarters in Batavia, the corporation operates about 30 betting parlors in its area, and it restored harness racing at the Downs in 2002.

Expanded gambling at the Batavia track is sure to ignite opposition from the Seneca Nation of Indians, which operates three casinos in Western New York and claims its gambling compact with the state gives the nation exclusive rights to gambling in the region. The Senecas argue that gambling operations at Batavia Downs and Fairgrounds Gaming in Hamburg violate that exclusivity.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has expressed support for legalized casino gambling in the state, a process that would take at least two years to amend the State Constitution with approval by two successive State Legislatures and then statewide voter approval.

In other action Wednesday, the Legislature:

*Authorized a $42,200 upgrade of the sheriff's firing range to move it farther from a fire training center. A new earthen berm would be added at the shooting range on State Street Road. The project would be funded by the county's extra 1 percent sales tax.

*Accepted $10,000 as part of a State Traffic Safety Council grant for the Stop-DWI program. The balance of a $21,775 grant would go to the Batavia and Le Roy police departments for road checks.

*Approved $9,970 as Genesee's annual share of funding for the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, noting there is a "significant return" on this investment.

*Allowed Emergency Management Services to roll over unspent 2011 federal and state grants of more than $2.6 million into this year's budget.