Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 20, 2012

Local lobbyists helping the OTB

Niagara Gazette — Western Regional Off Track Betting's bid to turn so-called "racinos" into full-fledged casinos is being helped by several lobbyists, including one with ties to Niagara County.

Records on file with the New York State Commission on Public Integrity show the OTB has hired the North Tonawanda firm Richardson Management to assist in its effort to secure a state license that would allow it to offer full casino gaming, including table games, at nine of its locations, including Batavia Downs racetrack in Erie County.

Richardson management, owned by Richard Winter — a North Tonawanda businessman who once worked as chief of staff to state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane — was hired by OTB in July. The agreement with OTB, which runs through June 1, 2013, notes that Richardson Management was hired "for the sole purpose" of assisting Western Regional Off-Track Betting in obtaining a "full casino gaming license from the state of New York."

Under the agreement, OTB has agreed to pay the firm $3,000 per month for its services which, according to the JCOPE filings, include "professional guidance, strategic advice and lobbying services at both the local and state level with an intent to help Batavia Downs one of seven casino gambling facilities chosen, per the New York State legislation."

Michael Kane, president and CEO of the Western Regional OTB, said Richardson Management is one of several lobbyists OTB has been working with in recent months to advance its gaming cause. The others, including Patricia Lynch Associates and Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, a law firm that also provides lobbying services, have been actively working with OTB to convince elected officials that gaming expansion makes financial sense.

"Quite frankly, in New York state, I think we need as many people fighting on our side as possible," Kane said.

Earlier this month, Niagara County lawmakers received a briefing from Michael Nolan, chief operating officer and vice president of Western Regional OTB, who asked for the legislature's support in allowing "racinos" like Batavia Downs that offer Video Lottery Terminals to add other games of chance, including table games, similar to those found at Class III gaming facilities operated by the Seneca Nation of Indians in Western New York.

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