Moneymaker Shaking: The Luxurious Field for One thing on the Taxpayer’s Expense

Buffalo Payments followers are famend for the cruel situations they’re prepared to endure to please their beloved crew. Neither Blizzard nor the bone-chilling chilly can maintain them away. For the Payments’ playoff recreation in opposition to the New England Patriots final January, a packed stadium sat at 4 levels Celsius with an air chill under zero.

A gaggle of high executives and board members of Batavia Downs Gaming, together with their households and political mates, have discovered a solution to keep away from such difficulties. In accordance with an audit launched final fall by the New York State Controller, the company spent greater than $1.3 million on scorching luxurious packing containers and 1000’s of tickets to Payments video games, Buffalo Sabers video games and different expensive occasions in lower than two years. And an excellent portion of these tickets went to company staff and administrators.

The acknowledged function of all these costly luxurious seats, paid for with taxpayer cash, is to entice gamblers to gamble extra: place a guess and win an opportunity to see the payments play out of a luxurious field. However in line with the controller, the company didn’t maintain full data of the individuals who acquired an excellent portion of these tickets, and not less than $120,000-worth of playing didn’t go to clients, however somewhat to company administrators, together with executives and their households and mates. went to different folks. ,

Michael Nolan is a former volunteer firefighter and Elma metropolis supervisor. He joined the manager crew at Batavia Downs Gaming in 2011 and served as its Chief Working Officer from 2016 to 2020. I interviewed him for over two hours. He was on the receiving finish of these insider requests for tickets. “I’ll have board members calling me asking for eight tickets to select up my grandchildren and their children,” he advised me.

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I additionally spoke with Phil Barnes, a retired deputy sheriff who represents Schuyler County on the Batavia Downs board. He advised me, “The board members would simply ask, ‘Hey, do you might have any tickets to Sunday’s Payments recreation, and so they’ll get a ticket.

One particular person to obtain such a ticket is Richard Bianchi, who serves because the company’s board chairman. In accordance with the Comptroller’s Audit, Bianchi is a selected fan of hockey and taxpayer-funded drinks and refreshments. In November 2018, Bianchi requested the advertising workplace for six tickets to see the Buffalo Sabers, an outing that featured a $1,300 tab for meals and wine. The next month, he requested for 4 Sabers field tickets to a gathering that price $1,800 in food and drinks.

Nolan advised me that one other director who sought luxurious seats is Richard Seibert, a Genesee County consultant on the board for practically 30 years. Siebert’s requests included seats for him and his grandchildren. When information of the posh field giveaway broke, Siebert provided a novel rationalization in an area media interview, following the controller’s audit. He insists that administrators and officers utilizing luxurious packing containers are successfully on watchman responsibility, simply to maintain issues tidy for the seat-winning gambler.

“The host has to ensure it’s clear,” he stated. “They’ve to ensure the meals is served … We will need to have a employees member at each single occasion to do the housekeeping.”

In reality, luxurious packing containers from the Payments video games include attendants serving meals and drinks, in addition to VIP parking passes, particular entrances to the stadium, heating, and personal bogs. Some of these VIP packing containers price between $6,000 and $20,000 per recreation to lease. It doesn’t appear possible that the stadium expects these high-end shoppers to tackle cleansing duties as properly. After auditing his workplace, Comptroller Dinapoli stated, “The income from OTBs ought to go to the taking part municipalities, and never give beneficiant allowances and different advantages to board members and staff.”

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Coming Thursday: Cadillac Well being is planning a part-time board.

about this collection

Batavia Downs Gaming, in any other case often called Western Regional Off-Monitor Betting (WROTB), is a public profit company chartered below New York State legislation. It’s owned by the cities of Buffalo and Rochester in addition to 15 western New York counties. Its operations embrace a Batavia horse racing monitor, on line casino and resort, together with a community of over two dozen betting parlors within the area. By legislation, the earnings it makes have to be divided between these native governments to assist finance native companies. It’s run by a board of administrators appointed by the identical native governments.

Batavia Downs Gaming has additionally been the topic of a collection of corruption allegations. These embrace probably unlawful taxpayer-funded well being plans for its board members, in addition to costly luxurious field tickets to Buffalo Payments video games and different occasions for board members and senior company officers, on the taxpayer’s expense.

Union-Solar & Journal columnist Jim Schultz lately accomplished an in-depth, six-month investigation into these allegations, which incorporates interviews with company whistleblowers and others. In April he revealed a nationwide article primarily based on these investigations, A Research in American Kleptocracy, within the New York Evaluate (the place he’s a contributing creator). Immediately US&J begins a four-part collection by Schultz primarily based on that very same investigation. Via Saturday, the collection will seem on: the reward of WROTB’s luxurious field seats on the Buffalo Payments and Sabers video games; “Cadillac” well being plans for a part-time board; Henri Wojtaszek’s political fortress; And new calls for for accountability in WROTB.

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