BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The president and CEO of Western Regional Off-Track Betting is responding to changes in oversight of the OTB.

The changes, which were approved through the state budget, are intended to provide more oversight over the OTB, which has been the subject of various investigations in recent years.

Henry Wojtaszek, a top official at the OTB says the shake up of the OTB board is politically-motivated. Wojtaszek is also the president and CEO of Batavia Downs.

Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation owned by 15 counties in the Western Region of New York State, as well as the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. Every area gets a seat on the Board of Directors.

In the budget, lawmakers approved of voting strength on the OTB’s Board be based on a per-capita basis. Also, seats on the board will be appointed by the Governor, the Assembly Speaker and the Temporary President of the Senate.

Lawmakers think this will create more oversight at the OTB. But, Wojtaszek says this move goes against how the OTB was originally crafted in the 1970s.

“The reason for the legislation I think is pretty apparent, it’s more of a political power play because it certainly isn’t because of the performance of the business,” Wojtaszek said, “I would say that the restructuring is not something that the current municipalities participate think is warranted or legal.”

Wojtaszek says it will be up to local cities and counties to decide whether to file a lawsuit challenging the changes.

“There’s been a lot of problems with Western New York OTB, I think that’s been well documented,” Wojtaszek said.

There has been much criticism of the OTB in recent years — in how board members have received health care coverage and tens of thousands of dollars have been racked up in costs in attending Bills and Sabres games and concerts.

“I would acknowledge that there maybe was a need for more transparency four or five years ago, I would say anybody’s that’s come in, in the last four or five years that has asked for any information whether it’s written information to FOIL requests or information that they’ve requested from us, we sit down for any interview,” Wojtaszek said.

A state audit found Wojtaszek did not reimburse the OTB for his personal use of an official vehicle until after this was found through an internal audit. The State Comptroller’s Office says that money should go back to communities not to give board members perks.

“The car issue, I will take the responsibility for that the paperwork wasn’t filed properly we did, I did subsequently make sure we did it properly, the tickets was another issue that while we were supplying tickets to our customers it’s a good business practice,” Wojtaszek said.

Wojtaszek says there have been multiple inquiries into the OTB over the years, including the state Attorney General’s Office within the past six months on the purchase of a newly built hotel at Batavia Downs. Profits made by the corporation are given back to the counties and cities that own the OTB based off of population.

Wojtaszek says board members rarely if ever attend sporting events and concerts anymore. And, that the OTB is more transparent, recently giving information to the Erie County Comptroller’s Office and the State Attorney General.

Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick says while the OTB has provided information, many questions have gone unanswered — like on a newly built hotel at Batavia Downs.

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.