State Budget Proposal Slashes Batavia Downs, Spares Downstate From Major Cuts

Western New York forced again to support other regions of the state

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) today called attention to proposed cuts in the executive budget that unfairly targets Western New York while sparing downstate regions from economic hardship. Under the governor’s proposal, state funding for Video Lottery Terminals (VLT) at Batavia Downs would be completely eliminated, while Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway would receive over $19 million.

“At a breakfast meeting with Governor Cuomo, I specifically asked him to restore our VLT revenue sharing with localities,” said Hawley. “Municipalities have built this funding into their budgets, and an unanticipated mid-year cut would surely hamper them. The governor assured me that he’d look into it.”

“When it comes to budget cuts, the pain felt in Western New York is staggering and inexcusable,” said Hawley. “The members of this community understand the importance of cutting back, but we will not stand idly by while the state continues to funnel money downstate and leave Western New Yorkers bankrupt. Albany can no longer turn to Western New York to support downstate’s spending.”

The 2010-11 State Budget cut funding to Batavia Downs by ten percent, while Yonkers Raceway has seen its funding sustained for the past two years. Hawley noted that more than $500,000 will be lost by the Town and City of Batavia, as well as Genesee County.

“Batavia Downs is a critical part of our economy in Western New York,” said Hawley. “The people of this region count on the success of this facility to attract tourism dollars and provide good-paying jobs. To inhibit the vitality of this establishment puts the economic stability of this community at risk.”

Batavia Downs opened in 1940 and is the oldest lighted harness racetrack in the United States, running a half-mile in distance. In its 71-year history, the race track has hosted the largest horse racing crowd in New York with an attendance of 15,000. The track hosts live harness racing from July to December annually.