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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Let them gamble in Salamanca, Niagara Falls, Ft. Erie or....

By Dick Hirsch

Here come a few more words about the threat posed by a casino for Buffalo. What? Is there anything that remains to be said about the Seneca Nation’s determination to bring a gambling casino to Buffalo? My answer is “yes.” Much has already been said and, trust me, more rhetoric will be manufactured in the days ahead.

Regular readers already know how I feel about the menace of a casino in Buffalo. If that happens, it will be disastrous, far outranking all the historic blunders ever made by Buffalo’s supposed leaders. It will attract few if any tourists and prey on the most vulnerable of our people.

Public officials are supposed to be nurturing the community and protecting citizens from threats of any kind. Instead, we see them genuflecting before the Seneca sponsors, embracing them and assuming the role of their advocates. It is beyond comprehension. One of my mentors once advised me that a community elects the kind of leaders it deserves. Unfortunately, that has proven to be true, and that explains the behavior of Mayor Byron Brown and County Executive Chris Collins. We must deserve them. They sounded like a couple of ineffectual flunkies announcing their continued support for the casino in the wake of a Federal Court ruling that a gambling den is illegal on that property. This is leadership for the public good? Brown’s claim to fame continues to be that he looks good in a suit. As for Collins, his performance so far is providing further proof that effective governing mandates a set of skills not necessarily possessed by a businessman.

Both Collins and Brown are motivated by immediate gratification and greed. Without considering the long term peril, they are lusting after the few million dollars in payments the governments will receive, a paltry sum when compared with the multimillions in profits the Senecas will collect in perpetuity. The Senecas have established themselves as gluttonous. Not sated with the millions currently being banked at their casinos in Niagara Falls and Salamanca, they insist on a Buffalo location despite the opposition which some reliable polls indicate represents a majority of residents of the county.

My specific objection is that a Buffalo casino will attract primarily Buffalo area people. It will never be a tourist attraction. It will suck the money out of our people, the people who are least able to afford losing. It will also damage businesses, restaurants, bars and hotels that cannot compete with the casino.

By the way, is there anyone out there who was surprised when the chief spokesman for the Seneca Nation immediately flaunted the Federal Court ruling? He said the gambling would continue as before at the Seneca temporary casino near downtown Buffalo. They may change their tune if the court seeks to enforce its ruling, but the Senecas have a history of defying civil authorities.

They thwarted the efforts of two governors---Cuomo and Pataki---to prevent the sale of untaxed gasoline and cigarettes by reservation based Indian merchants to non-Indians. When the state attempted to enforce the tax law, the Indians resisted and, among other demonstrations, halted traffic on the New York State Thruway with a blockade of burning tires.

Those gambling entrepreneurs are nothing if not predictable. Can you name another group or individual who would have the temerity to reject a ruling by a Federal Judge in such a high profile case and insist on maintaining the status quo?

Now that I have asserted my position, let me devote a paragraph to the opposite opinion of a good friend who enjoys gambling and can afford losing. By the way, he never calls it “gaming” as do the promoters and the unwitting media broadcasters and writers. He calls it by its proper name, GAMBLING, and strongly favors the Buffalo casino. He agrees that its primary targets will be local people, many of whom are living on limited incomes, and gamble hoping for a big payoff. His view is that those people will gamble anyway, at another site if there is no Buffalo casino. “If they want to gamble, they’ll find a way and a place to gamble,” he says. (That may be true, but I argue against making it so convenient when there are many other nearby locations.) In addition, he claims a casino will be a source of business for many local vendors as well as employment for job seekers.

Through his connections, I contacted a casino executive in another location. Surprisingly, he aligned himself with me. “Kid,” he said, “other businesses in the city can’t compete. A casino chokes them all.”


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