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BATAVIA – While observers doubt that Batavia Downs Casino will live up to its new name, the track continues a vigorous campaign to win table games and become a Las Vegas-style gambling center.
The Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.-owned harness racing track – with 640 video lottery terminals that resemble slot machines – is seeking support from its member counties to become a full-scale casino by adding table games including blackjack, poker and roulette.
There are two likely obstacles. The Seneca Nation of Indians would fight any attempt to compete with its casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca. The nation already is at odds with the state, claiming the slots at Batavia, Hamburg and Canandaigua violate a 2002 exclusivity agreement in a gambling compact between the two parties.
In exchange for a share of their revenue, the Senecas contend, there was to be no gambling competition within Western New York.
Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo indicated that seven casinos, if approved by two successive legislatures and state voters, would not be awarded to any of the seven harness and two thoroughbred tracks in the state.
The Genesee County Legislature was the first to back WROTB’s campaign; 10 other counties have added support.
OTB is composed of 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.
WROTB’s bid has not yet gotten backing from Buffalo or Niagara and Cattaraugus counties, sites of the Indian-run casinos.
Meanwhile, the millions the Senecas are withholding from Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca are going to arbitration.
Possibly next year, the decision on non-Indian gambling will be decided by the voters in a state with nine racinos, several Indian casinos and a variety of lottery games. As a local city official put it: “Do we need more?”