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400 employees back to work at Batavia Downs

Mike Desmond

More than 400 workers are back on their job, after Batavia Downs Gaming reopened Wednesday after being closed since the state locked down in March.

Batavia Downs released the following statement on Twitter Wednesday: "WE'RE BACK!"

Seneca Gaming began reopening in June, although none of the three Nation casinos are completely open. Hamburg Gaming also opened Wednesday.

Batavia Downs is part of a complex built around the long-time horse racetrack and an off-track betting shop. There are fewer games. Albany also has a series of rules, from masks to limited attendance. In Batavia, that means 750 maximum at any one time.

Batavia Gaming President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said patrons should expect changes.

"The biggest single difference they will find is that they'll have to undergo a temperature check. The major, I think, inconvenience will be the wearing of the mask. That's very, very important. The Gaming Commission has made it very clear that that is going to be necessary, wearing a mask, wearing it properly and to create to make sure we have distancing."

Wojtaszek said some workers were not called back because of state restrictions on food and beverage operations. That includes no service on the gaming floor and not all restaurants are open.

"We have live racing underway. Our OTB is open and now we do have the gaming floor, but we do have some things we aren't able to do," Wojtaszek said. "We can't have fans come to the live racing, so there are a few things we can't do there. Our 34 West bar is not open at this time. We hope to open it soon. We do have the Clubhouse open."

That still leaves around 75 workers still on furlough. Wojtaszek said more parts of the facility will be opened over time and more workers will be called back.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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