On Saturday it is set to close, you can bet on that. After Saturday however, bettors in the local area will have to take a trip to place a legal bet on a horse race.
The Western Regional Off Track Betting Corporation's Third and Main streets site in the city of Dunkirk is shutting its doors. From the gloomy looks on some of the patrons at the OTB site Wednesday, the imminent closing has hit pretty hard. Then again, maybe the right horse didn't win the last race.
At any rate, according to the WROTBC website, Dunkirk patrons are asked to visit its Jamestown OTB or the McKinley OTB in Buffalo. E-Z Bet locations at the Arcade Hotel or Stroh's Tavern in Angola were also touted. No E-Z Bet locations are found in Chautauqua County, according to the website. An OTB site in Rochester was also listed as closing.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Pictured is the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corporation site at Main and Third streets in the city of Dunkirk. WROTBC has announced the site will be closed effective Saturday.
The midday Wednesday crowd of some 20 patrons was typical of a weekday. As one bettor quipped, this is where the retirees are. Most were not surprised by the closing but doubted many would travel to Jamestown or farther to bet the horses.
The building is owned by Doug Haase and his uncle, Larry Haase. Doug Haase was asked when OTB gave notice it was closing.
"Just a few weeks ago," he replied. "There hasn't been much on our end that they were going to be closing up shop as quickly as they have. We're still looking to do something, hopefully find another tenant that would like to move in there."
Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was asked about the closing.
"Unfortunately, the horse racing industry has been in peril for some time. The closure of the Dunkirk OTB branch is a disappointing result of that general decline. OTB has been part of Dunkirk's fabric for decades and its many customers will sorely miss it," he replied. "My understanding is that the local closing may unfortunately put three people out of work, with a fourth employee transferring to the Jamestown branch.
"We have already begun working to re-fill that retail space and we will do what we can to assist the landlord."
Doug Haase said a meeting with Dunkirk Development Director Steve Neratko is scheduled today.
Haase remembers OTB moving to his building in the mid 1980s. Dunkirk's first OTB opened in September of 1974 in what was then a new building at Main and Fifth streets. At one point in 2001 the WROTBC offered the city $125,000 for waterfront property so it could build its own facility. That deal never happened. At one time OTB had facilities in Gowanda and Ripley.
Haase was somewhat philosophical about the change.
"It is enjoyment. People spent time there and it's a meeting place for some," Haase said. "Gambling is what it is. They don't call it winning, it's gambling."
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