Batavia Downs success means more revenue for Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Western Regional Off-Track Betting, which is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, has been returning profits to its municipal owners due to the success of Batavia Downs, which recently completed an expansion and major renovations to the gaming center/race track on Park Road in Batavia.

ALBION – The revenue at the OTB branch in Albion has taken a big drop in the past five years, with betting down from $1.3 million in 2010 to $517,000 last year.

However, the county received more revenue from Western Regional Off-Track Betting last year due to the success of Batavia Downs. The casino-like site on Park Road in Batavia is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

The municipalities, including Orleans, get a share in the profits from Batavia Downs, which last year topped $52 million in “net win.” That’s the amount of money patrons of the nearly 800 video lottery terminals lost – an average of $1 million a week throughout the year.

WROTB sent $32 million of those profits to New York State, said Michael Nolan, vice president of WROTB.

The municipal owners saw an increase in revenue in 2015 from WROTB, including Orleans. The county’s revenue was up from about $39,000 in 2014 to $52,000 last year, Nolan told county legislators on Wednesday.

Michael Nolan, center, is vice president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting. He addresses the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday with Ed Morgan (right), the county’s representative on the WROTB board of directors. Sean Schiano (left) is director of branch operations for WROTB.

WROTB expanded the video gaming last year at Batavia Downs and also did major renovations of the race track complex. That $28.6 million project is done, and now WROTB is working with a private developer on a new 84-room hotel that will open this year by the race track.

Since Batavia Downs opened with video gaming a decade ago, it has increased revenues every year from the video lottery terminals. It reported $52.6 million in profits from the machines in 2015, a 7.4 percent growth from the $48.9 million in 2014. That percentage gain led the nine video gaming sites in the state.

Batavia Downs was given a big facelift as part of a $28.6 million capital project.

Nolan said Batavia Downs has led the state in growth in three of the past four years.
He expects the hotel project will be a boost to Batavia Downs. WROTB also is looking to get into fantasy sports betting at its OTB parlors. Nolan said WROTB is awaiting direction from the state attorney general on the issue.

If the attorney general allows the fantasy sports betting at OTB parlors, Nolan said it would be a boost to the sites. WROTB operates 27 OTB parlors, including the one in Albion. That is done from 72 during the peak of OTB about 30 years ago.

Despite the drop in handle or betting in Albion, WROTB is determined to keep the site open, said Sean Schiano, director of branch operations for WROTB.

“We don’t want to lose our foothold in the county,” he said.

WROTB also has 25 E-Z Bet sites where patrons can bet on horses at restaurants, bowling alleys and other establishments. Schiano said he would welcome an E-Z Bet in Orleans County. Those sites draw customers for the host business, and also benefit WROTB by boosting the corporation’s revenue with minimal work on WROTB’s part. The E-ZBets also introduce new customers to betting, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to squeeze water out of the rock,” Schiano said.