Feb 1


OTB striking back: Officials to fight reform effort

Officials at the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. see no need for further changes

Officials from the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp. plan to fight one state senator’s efforts to reform their operation.

Following OTB’s monthly meeting on Jan. 21, agency President Henry Wojtaszek told the Daily News in Batavia that he was directed by the agency’s board to explore options for challenging three pieces of legislation introduced by state Sen. Tim Kennedy.

Wotjaszek hinted that one option could be litigation.

Another could involve encouraging local lawmakers representing Western New York communities served by OTB to approve resolutions opposing Kennedy’s reforms.

“You heard today that the board certainly doesn’t support a measure to dismantle the board that has done such a great job to bring Batavia Downs to where it is right now, where it is returning record amounts of money to the municipalities,” Wojtaszek said.

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On Jan. 13, Kennedy unveiled legislation that would alter OTB’s board structure based on population and prohibit the take-home use of OTB vehicles by select agency employees. In addition, the legislation calls for a $15 cap on the value of items, including sports and concert tickets, that board members are permitted to accept.

Kennedy introduced the legislation in response to an audit by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that identified several issues within OTB’s operations, including improper use of tickets to luxury suites at sporting and music events at Highmark Stadium and Keybank Center.

Wojtaszek has previously said that OTB has already taken steps to address concerns raised by the comptroller’s audit. He and other OTB board members bristled at Kennedy’s suggestion that additional reforms were needed.

Wojtaszek told the Daily News that the perks covered under Kennedy’s proposed legislation were addressed by the corporation three years ago and said that his proposed cap on promotional items was not needed because OTB already had a “limit relative to gifts.”

The Daily News also reported that Genesee County’s OTB representative, Richard Seibert, planned to present lawmakers in his county with a resolution that would assert the county’s home rule in an effort to oppose Kennedy’s reforms. He suggested there are plans to distribute similar pieces of legislation for consideration in other counties within Western OTB’s jurisdiction, while calling Kennedy’s plan a “power grab for the bigger counties.”

“It’s a complete takeover by some powerful people,” Siebert said.

OTB did not respond to requests for comment from Investigative Post.

A spokesperson for Kennedy’s office said the senator declined comment.