WROTB operational plan projects strong returns

Livingston County News

A fully-renovated Batavia Downs, increased state allowances for promotional reinvestments and upward trends in video lottery terminal usage have Western Regional OTB directors anticipating strong returns for their municipal partners in 2015.

The 2015 operational plan approved by directors Thursday estimates that Genesee, Wyoming, Orleans and Livingston counties and the WROTB’s other municipal owners will split $1.5 million in surcharges.

The plan projects another $515,658 will go to municipalities from operational profits paid quarterly. Comptroller Jackie Leach said those receipts hit $1 million in 2014 and could easily exceed those figures.

The WROTB’s branches, live racing and Batavia Downs Gaming are estimated to have a total gross revenue of $76.293 million, a majority of which is funneled to the state.

Locally-accessible revenues from gaming, live racing and on-site hospitality offerings are projected at $4.775 million, which covers an expected $4.260 million loss from OTB branches.

“We’ve incorporated a 12 percent increase in gaming revenues from our estimated and actuals in 2014,” Leach said. “We believe having our (capital) project done and a new entranceway will help.”

A completely renovated entrance to the Park Avenue gaming facility is scheduled to open Dec. 18, WROTB President/CEO Michael Kane said Thursday.

Kane added that finishing touches on the $28 million project will be completed by the end of the year. A grand opening is being planned for January.

Debt service from the project is projected to be fully covered by a capital project fund that can receive up to $2.5 million in gaming profits.

The last phase of the project does not have the flash of nearly 800-terminal gaming floor and restaurants added last year, but adds more convenience for customers who have had to walk through an open-air corridor to reach the gaming floor during construction.

The gaming floor will also be served by an enhanced Wi-Fi system, Leach said, that will allow players to access instant promotions. The move is aided by the state now allowing 15 percent of the Downs’ profits from credits played on VTLs to be put toward free plays.

The operational plan assumes 72 live racing dates and $1.8 million in on-site handle in 2015. Both are in line with the 2014 season.

Handles from wagering at the Downs on races at other tracks is projected to step back to $3.9 million, a decline that Leach said could be countered by increased use of the WROTB’s smartphone and web-based wagering options.

The operational plan is more of a guideline than a budget, Leach said.

“It’s all discretionary,” Leach said. “We look at the historical trends … it’s a conservative and fluid process.”