November 10, 2008

Legalized Gaming

Congratulations to the Seneca Nation for their success in casino gaming. They've created a fantastic environment for the gambling enthusiast, with a first-class hotel, a multitude of quality restaurants and all of the amenities that accompany a casino. In addition, they've committed to the construction of a 52 story hotel that would dwarf the current 26 story building, which is already the tallest hotel in Niagara Falls. Whether the construction of that hotel will be delayed given the current economic conditions remains to be seen.

We've always supported a casino in the Falls. There is a natural draw of over 10 million people every year. We're less likely to think that Buffalo should have a casino, since a casino in that city is much more likely to prey on the local residents, as opposed to the Seneca Niagara, which derives much of its revenues from gamblers from outside of the immediate area. The Senecas themselves have stated that they have no intention of marketing the Buffalo casino to areas outside of the region.

The Native American-run casinos in Western New York have been a great success for the tribal nation. They've reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues over the past several years. As part of the casino compact, approximately one-eighth of the slot machine revenues are given to the host community, which is Niagara Falls. From that revenue, various portions are given to the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp.

Here's the problem: We're fighting over scraps. No one disputes the success of the casino here in Niagara Falls. Many will argue the point that it should not be run by the Senecas. There is no logical reason that the State of New York should allow public corporations the opportunity to set up gaming in the city. It works, and we know it works, but we're left with a few crumbs after the Seneca Nation takes is massive profits.

In order for there to be legal gaming, the state would have to pass a constitutional change in two separate legislative bodies, then the legislation would go to a referendum. As the state faces a multi-billion budget deficit, many believe that the public would quickly authorize slots and table games to get state revenues and stimulate job growth.

Unfortunately, the soonest that such a proposal could be on the ballot is 2011, but the state can put the legislation in motion now. It only makes sense. Let's give the people of this state the opportunity to decide if they want legalized gambling. Donald Trump need not weigh in.

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