Lobbying Begins To Change State Law To Put More E-Z Bet Terminals In Buffalo

Written By Dan Holmes on March 12, 2024
Sign for Batavia Downs, a Buffalo-area casino that looks to change state law allowing for more off-track betting terminals near Hamburg

Off-track betting terminals could pop up in restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys in the Buffalo area.

That’s if Batavia Downs is successful in lobbying for a change to state gaming law.

Last month, Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, a representative for the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. Board of Directors, outlined a plan to allow so-called E-Z Bet terminals within range of Hamburg Gaming casino.

State law does not currently permit the placement of an OTB within 30 miles of the Hamburg Gaming facility, unless approved by the owners of that establishment.

But, such E-Z Bet terminals are seen elsewhere in the state, and Rodriguez-Dabney feels residents near the town south of Buffalo deserve the chance to play them.

Why OTB machines are not more common in New York

Off-track betting machines allow access to odds on horse track races throughout New York. Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. supplies the OTB units, and revenue is split between that company and the business that hosts it.

In some areas of New York, you will find OTB machines in rest stops and convenience stores. But NY gaming law written years ago called for a restricted area around certain gaming venues. Because of that, currently, OTBs cannot be located anywhere in Erie County, nor much of Niagara County, without the permission of Hamburg Gaming.

The board for Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., led by Rodriguez-Dabney, plans to lobby state lawmakers to eliminate the 30-mile radius restriction.

Their plan may find support: the board has trended toward Democrats in recent years, and the Dems control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the offices of governor, secretary of state and attorney general in New York.

“For doing nothing but allowing [OTBs] in your business, you’re making extra bucks,” Rodriguez-Dabney said at a board meeting in February.

“If that’s $5,000 a year, that’s $5,000 of passive income, quite honestly, that may be able to help keep a business afloat or help with investments or help with something.”

Increasing OTBs would actually lead to more revenue for Hamburg

According to Western Regional OTB, the company made $428,000 from off-track betting machines in 15 New York counties in 2023. Which means the same amount of revenue was spread to those host locations, many of them small businesses.

Requests have been made in the past for the placement of OTBs in Erie County, but Hamburg Gaming allowed only two machines to be placed. Just one of those Erie County OTBs remain in operation.

Per state law, Hamburg can receive a portion of revenue from OTBs it approves in its territory. But, according to Western Regional OTB, Hamburg Gaming has demanded an increase in that percentage of revenue, making it difficult for them to make money.

“They want us to do all the work and they get a piece of the profit,” Sean Schiano, vice president of operations for Western Regional, told the Investigative Post.

“We’re trying to run a business. We’re all trying to make money.”

Photo by Batavia Downs Instagram
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a freelance writer for PlayNY. An author of three books about sports, he previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Dan enjoys writing, running and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.

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