We are pleased and applaud the governor’s support for a constitutional amendment concerning casino gaming during his State of the State address. This will have a significant positive economic affect on Western New York, specifically the 15 counties and two cities, which include Buffalo and Rochester that own Batavia Downs Casino.
With New York facing ongoing fiscal challenges as the economy continues to sputter, now is the time to permit enhanced gaming at the state’s racetrack casinos so that we can reclaim the billions of dollars in revenue – along with spending on travel, lodging, meals and other related economic activity — that flow out of our state every year.
Many thousands of New Yorkers already visit the state’s racetrack casinos, including Batavia Downs Casino. The tracks, which are licensed by the state, have over the past decade created thousands of jobs and provided billions of dollars to the state and local governments for education, agriculture and horse breeding.
Since 2005, Batavia Downs Casino and Western Regional Off-Track Betting have given more than $107 million to New York State Education through the lottery. More than $71 million has been distributed to Western Regional's member counties and cities, helping lower property taxes and contribute to community improvements.
Batavia Downs Casino and Racetrack employs more than 250 people year round. That number increases to more than 300 when racing is in session from July through December.
But the racetrack casinos lack a vital element to keep gaming enthusiasts in our state: live table games. As a result, many are choosing to travel to venues in other jurisdictions, where they leave behind an estimated $3-5 billion and spend hundreds of millions more on hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping and travel expenses.
The racetrack casinos have united to form the New York Gaming Association, which will work in partnership with the governor and the legislature on the multi-year process to approve the state constitutional amendment to permit live table games at our facilities.
By enhancing our existing venues with table games, we will attract clientele that now goes out of state and consequently create thousands of additional jobs and generate more revenues to provide even greater support for education, agriculture and horseracing and breeding.
Enhancing existing racetrack casinos to include table games is a good deal for New York, and not simply because of the increased revenues. Association members have already proven to be outstanding and dependable partners with the state, operating with oversight by both the State Division of Lottery and the Racing and Wagering Board. In fact, some have suggested that ours is one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the state, if not the entire country.
There is another reason why enhancing the racetrack casinos makes so much sense for New York: We are not asking for any taxpayer dollars at all. On the contrary, association members, including Batavia Downs Casino are prepared to invest hundreds of millions to upgrade our venues.
Batavia Downs Casino already had an expansion plan in place that will look to break ground this year. By the time the amendment is passed, the facility will be ready to start on an $85-95 million project beginning in 2014. This will include a convention center and expanded gaming, including table games. That means more visitors to our area, helping retail, hotels and restaurant owners along the way. It also means increased revenue to the state, and most importantly, new jobs. The impact of all these would be seen rapidly.
At a time when budgets are tight and taxpayers are rightfully skeptical about untested ideas that promise economic benefits, allowing the enhancement of existing, successful racetrack casinos to include table games is a good bet for all New Yorkers.
Batavia Downs in owned and operated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation. Municipalities that own Batavia Downs Casino include: City of Buffalo, Cattaraugus County, Cayuga County, Chautauqua County, Erie County, Genesee County, Livingston County, Monroe County, Niagara County, Orleans County, Oswego County, City of Rochester, Schuyler County, Seneca County, Steuben County, Wayne County, and Wyoming County.
The track is also home to Batavia Downs Casino, featuring more than 600 video slot machines. Batavia Downs Casino is located less than one mile from Thruway Exit 48 and is open daily from 9 to 4 a.m.