July 12, 2006
Opposition to the Proposed Buffalo Creek Casino
The Western New York Coalition for Progress (the “Coalition”) is opposed to the Seneca Nation’s proposed Buffalo Creek Casino now under construction in Buffalo’s Cobblestone District, and supports the current federal lawsuit filed by Citizens for a Better Buffalo, which seeks to prevent its completion.
While the Coalition is not fundamentally opposed to casino gaming, per se, we believe that this project is not in the best interests of Buffalo and Western New York. Our region is already inundated with various gambling venues. The Seneca Nation operates Class III casinos in Niagara Falls and Salamanca, New York. Ontario’s provincial government operates two full-service casinos in Niagara Falls, Ontario, as well as racetrack slots and bingo parlors in Fort Erie. New York’s OTB operates video slot machines at the Hamburg Fairgrounds Raceway and Batavia Downs.
Combining that with the fact that the Senecas have acknowledged in their SEC filings that the proposed Buffalo Creek casino will attract mostly local residents - not tourists - we believe that this new Buffalo casino will not benefit the area, but only add to a growing problem.
The City of Buffalo and Erie County each stand to receive a small portion of the State’s percentage of revenue from the Buffalo Creek Casino. Indeed, that revenue will come only from the slot machines, not the table games. The Coalition believes that the social costs outweigh any potential financial benefit the casino may bring.
Additionally, since all other forms of traditional casino gambling are unconstitutional in New York State, we believe that voters should be permitted to approve any casino project within the state through referendum.
Furthermore, the Coalition is opposed to the creation of a sovereign Seneca Nation in the heart of downtown Buffalo. The Seneca Nation is only entitled to declare sovereign nation status for land acquired for a casino. If the casino is stopped, it is arguable that the land owned by the Seneca Nation cannot be considered sovereign in nature.
The Coalition is also concerned that the advent of a sovereign nation’s casino in the heart of downtown Buffalo would not be subject to certain New York State laws, thus giving that venture an unfair advantage over businesses already existing in Buffalo on New York State soil. Specifically, the Seneca Casino would not be subject to state taxation on the sale of goods and services on-site, smoking would be permitted inside, and alcoholic beverages are frequently provided complimentary. The introduction of sovereign casino gambling to Niagara Falls has not benefited surrounding businesses in Niagara Falls – in fact, some have been harmed to the point of closing. There is no reason to believe that a casino in the heart of downtown Buffalo would have any less of a negative effect on nearby merchants.
While the issue of construction of the proposed Casino is being reviewed by the court, the Coalition is also vehemently opposed to any interim proposal whereby the taxpayers of Erie County or the City of Buffalo are required to finance any actual or ancillary changes to city infrastructure in support of a Seneca casino.
In conclusion, while some meager economic benefit would result from a casino’s existence in downtown Buffalo (new jobs and some small subsidy to the City of Buffalo and County of Erie), we believe the negatives far outweigh any positive developments the casino might bring, and thus the Western New York Coalition for Progress opposes the further construction of the proposed Seneca Nation Buffalo Creek Casino.