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Western Regional OTB chief aims to allay traffic fears tied to Batavia expansion

BATAVIA – Michael D. Kane, president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., says he realizes some city residents aren’t happy with Batavia Downs Gaming’s plan to close off a portion of Park Road to traffic this summer.

But, he quickly adds, he is confident that people’s fears of long lines of backed-up cars will be put to rest once everything comes into view.

“I can understand their concerns, but those ultimately will be proved to be baseless,” Kane said following Thursday’s WROTB directors meeting.

Kane was referring to several residents of nearby Redfield Parkway, who have voiced their opposition to the proposal at recent City Council and Batavia Town Board meetings.

Town officials last week voted to take on “lead agency” status for the state environmental quality review process of the initiative, which eventually includes reconfiguration and expansion of the parking lot, a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through and a bus loop.

Kane said town leaders are looking at the wording of the project, and may ask the Downs to expand the radius of its traffic study. He also noted that changes to Park Road are subject to New York State Gaming Commission approval.

Meanwhile, work on the privately owned Batavia Downs Gaming Hotel – located between the paddock and the gaming facility – is at the framing stage, in anticipation of a July opening.

The $7.5 million hotel is being built by a group of Buffalo investors, who purchased 35,000 square feet of WROTB property in March.

In other developments:

• Kane reported that an internal and external search is on to find his replacement when he retires in July. He said he would like to have someone hired by May so he can assist the new president in the acclimation process.

“Currently we have about 120 applications on file, three of which would warrant serious consideration,” he said.

• Downs officials are calling for the New York Racing Association to negotiate on behalf of the state’s five OTBs to forge a contract with Churchill Downs Inc. that would enable OTB branches to offer wagering on the Kentucky Derby.

• The gaming facility added five new games to its floor, increasing its total to 793, and has requested to purchase another 18 games that may be available from Tioga Downs. The Gaming Commission must sign off on the additions, Kane said.

• The company’s Albion OTB parlor is set to close on March 29.