Bid By OTB to Operate Racetrack Moves Forward

The first bid by an off-track betting corporation to operate a racetrack in New York has taken a major step forward after a bill sailed through the state Assembly.

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which purchased upstate harness track Batavia Downs three years ago, won approval by the Assembly to offer racing at the shuttered facility after OTB officials cut a deal with the owners of Monticello Raceway, who were concerned about competition from a government-owned track.

The push by Western OTB to offer racing this summer now awaits Senate approval, but that may hinge on whether OTB officials can make peace with Vernon Downs, a central New York harness track that has opposed the re-opening of Batavia Downs. Senate insiders said they will not move until Western OTB makes a financial arrangement with Vernon Downs.

Officials at Vernon Downs said there is no deal and negotiations are continuing. Martin Basinait, chairman of Western OTB, couldn't be reached for comment.

Western OTB already has struck a deal with Finger Lakes Race Track to facilitate the reopening of Batavia Downs. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board must approve of the Batavia plan, but that is considered a sure thing, observers said.