Batavia Downs worries about ‘oversaturation’ in WNY gambling

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Batavia Downs, which has turned into a cash cow for its owners, would be “devastated” if the Seneca Nation of Indians was allowed to open a new casino in Henrietta, Batavia Downs leaders told the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday.

The Senecas already have casinos in Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In addition, there are casino-like sites at the race tracks in Hamburg, Batavia and Farmington.

“We are worried about oversaturation and I think the state is as well,” Mike Nolan, Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp’s chief operating officer, told county legislators.

Orleans is one of 15 counties, as well as the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, with an ownership stake in Batavia Downs. Those municipalities are all owners of WROTB, which bought the race track in 1998 and has turned the site into a casino-like facility with about 800 video gaming machines that resemble slots.

The video gaming at Batavia is projected to generate about $60 million in profits this year with that money shared by the state, horsemen and WROTB.

The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday formally opposed efforts to bring a casino in neighboring Monroe County because it would cause “financial distress” to Batavia Downs and its member municipalities.

Nolan said WROTB is reaching out to state legislators and other counties to oppose the Henrietta casino. The project would ultimately need state approval. Gov. Cuomo said he supports seven new casinos in the state, but has shied away from additional sites in WNY and also in New York City.

There is no formal plan for a casino in Henrietta, but developer David Flaum is talking with the Seneca Nation about the project.

“We don’t believe the state will support this,” Nolan said about a possible Henrietta project.