Navigating the economic disruption that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for us at Batavia Downs Gaming. Our doors were closed to the public for the last six months, leaving over 400 Western New Yorkers without jobs during incredibly stressful times.
But thanks to our customers, the State Gaming Association, and our elected representatives, we reopened our doors two weeks ago, welcomed back our tremendous staff, and have provided a clean and safe environment for our visitors.
Batavia Downs Gaming is one of the largest employers in Genesee County — but we are more than just an economic driver for Western New York. As the only municipally-owned gaming facility in the state, we are responsible for providing critical funding for education and community development projects that help create jobs and support students and families.
While it was challenging to readjust our business model these last six months, we recognized that Batavia Downs Gaming had an obligation to the taxpayers of Western New York to stay in business, so we did whatever was necessary to adapt.
Like many small businesses in our region, we embraced the power of social media to help us stay engaged with our customers during COVID-19. We used Facebook Live to bring live-racing right to our customers by broadcasting races, sharing the latest schedules, and giving viewers real-time updates on winners. Our Facebook followers also participated in our daily “Question of the Day” program, which ran for 85 days, helping us connect with our community and keep customers interested in our reopening.
We have also used social media platforms to inform our customers about the latest safety protocols implemented at our facility ahead of their arrival, assuring them they can have a safe experience here. We have installed over 120 hand-sanitizing stations and a newly upgraded HVAC filtration system. We are checking temperatures at the doors, abiding by the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, and mandating face coverings.
Our number one priority has been and will remain to keep our workers and customers safe. But, like many of the businesses in our region, we have gone well above our budgets to purchase items like plexiglass, face coverings, sanitizer, and gallons of hospital grade cleaning products. The high costs of Personal Protective Equipment place a significant burden on a business’s bottom line, especially when facing lower revenues. A tax incentive or discount on these products would go a long way in helping businesses survive through the pandemic.
During these challenging times, every little bit helps, and ensuring we have high-quality PPE will help increase our capacity soon, so we can get back to generating funding to benefit our struggling public education system. We know Western New York can come back even stronger — together.
Henry F. Wojtaszek is president & CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming/WROTB