County benefits from OTB partnership

In the Sunday OBSERVER (March 9), the letter “Legislators OK a gamble” stated “that the County government could afford to pay for the Batavia Downs gambling casino in Genesee County, even though it claimed it couldn’t afford to pay for the care of (County Home resident Joseph) Carrus.”

This statement is not only false, it serves as a disservice to our county legislators. In fact, the county has nothing to do with the Batavia Downs Racino. The Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. owns and operates the facility. The OTB is a public benefit corporation and since 1974 has provided our county with nearly $9 million.

As a member of the Western Regional OTB board of directors since 1998, and having voted to purchase the then defunct Batavia Downs, I can attest to the inaccuracy of the letter writer’s claim. Chautauqua County is one of the 15 counties along with two cities, Buffalo, and Rochester, who are by state law members or shareholders in Western Regional OTB.

The counties’ and two cities’ dividends are based on population. For example, Erie County has garnered over $57 million since 1974.

What is true is that Western Regional OTB is in a fight for its life with David Flaum, a Monroe County developer retained by the Seneca Nation, to build a full-blown casino in Monroe County. The Seneca Nation, in its compact with the state of New York, is entitled to three Las Vegas style casinos in Western New York – they have them. A fourth casino in the south of Monroe County would not only imperil more than 500 jobs at Batavia Downs, but all over Western New York where an OTB branch exists.

The writer is justified in his anger regarding Mr. Carrus and the sale of the County Home; however his facts concerning Batavia Downs and Western Regional OTB are wrong.

Roger Ruckman is the Chautauqua County OTB director.