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Another Voice: Albany should open sports betting to Western New Yorkers

By Henry F. Wojtaszek
The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to strike down a 1992 federal law that limited gambling, has created a pathway for Western Regional Off-Track Betting (WROTB) and Batavia Downs Gaming to provide sports betting opportunities to all the dedicated sports fans in Western New York. Our organization is perfectly positioned with existing infrastructure to deliver a sports betting platform to customers in 15 counties, and with the preparation we’ve done, we are confident we can get this product up and running quickly, smoothly, and professionally but we need leaders in Albany to act quickly.

Currently, under New York State law only four private casino gaming resorts are authorized to operate sports books legally. These facilities are located in Tioga, Seneca, Sullivan and Schenectady counties – all hundreds of miles away.

Why should only four private casinos whose profits only go to private business owners be the only gaming facilities in New York State allowed to provide this service? As the only municipally owned gaming facility in New York State, WROTB/Batavia Downs Gaming is not just a strong economic driver for Western New York, but we provided critical funding for community development which creates jobs, protects families and helps to offset tax increases for residents.

The more revenue we generate, the more we give back to communities. Since our inception, we have generated over $226 million to 17 municipalities – legalizing sports betting in our region would only increase these important contributions. So why should Western New Yorkers have to travel across the state to place bets on sporting events, when there is an opportunity to provide the same service in Western New York and generate more community development funding?

Thankfully leaders in Albany want to fix this problem, State Sen. John Bonancic, chair of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering are drafting legislation that would allow betting at OTB sites and racinos. Senator Bonancic estimates this legislation could bring $10 million to $30 million in revenue to New York State each year. The need for this critical funding couldn’t be more important to local taxpayers since the Seneca Nation is refusing to fulfill their financial obligations to taxpayers and Niagara leaders are considering tax increases.

We are proud to have a wonderful partnership with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and our local elected leaders, both Democrat and Republican. We look forward to working with officials on both sides of the aisle to ensure this opportunity becomes a reality because Western New York shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity to create thousands of jobs, enhance our tourism industry, and allow millions of dollars in investment to flow through our neighborhoods.

Henry F. Wojtaszek is the President/CEO Of WROTB/Batavia Downs.




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