WXXI AM News

Thurman Thomas and Batavia Downs come to Rochester bearing checks

Dec 18, 2017

Officials from Batavia Downs and Western Regional Off Track Betting came to Rochester City Hall on Monday to hand out some ceremonial checks.

Former Buffalo Bills great Thurman Thomas, who is a spokesman for the track and gambling facility, came by to help present the money to Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.

Batavia Downs is the only municipally owned gaming facility in the state, and some of the revenues come to the participating communities, including Rochester and Monroe County.  On Monday, Rochester got a check for $220,000, and Monroe County received a $558,000 payment.

Mike Nolan is chief operating officer for Batavia Downs Gaming. Despite the increase in gambling competition throughout the region in recent years, Nolan says Batavia Downs is doing ok, and expects further enhancements next year.

“We’re going to do a two-and-a-half million dollar renovation in the next year, we’re going to expand our Italian restaurant, we’re hopeful to put a cigar bar in and we’re going to build out a new paddock area to come and enjoy horse racing.”  He says those improvements are on top of the $28 million expansion Batavia Downs did two years ago.

Nolan says Batavia Downs did see revenues fall about 10 to 15 percent in recent months because of new competition from the del Lago casino. But he says Batavia can compete, as long as they can get the state to come up with a more equitable taxing structure.

In terms of the Bills, who have not been in the playoffs since 1999, Thurman Thomas told WXXI News that he respects the loyalty of the Buffalo fans. He notes that tackle Kyle Williams also was praising the fans, many of whom stayed in a snow covered stadium a couple of Sundays ago to watch the game to its conclusion.

“You can walk and talk to fans and they can be like, you know, when you guys walk on that field, we feel like we’re going to win too, and that’s the mentality that the fans have and Kyle said it before, a guy that’s never been to the playoffs , been here 12 years, he knows that every time that he’s been out there, it’s because of the fans and how grateful they are.”

And Thomas says he is still optimistic about the Bills' future. He says they still have a shot at the playoffs this year, but even if they don't make it, he is hopeful for the team next season.