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Majority opposes casino gambling in center city

Rochester Business Journal
February 22, 2013

More than half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose putting a casino in downtown Rochester. Of the 55 percent opposed, 37 percent say they strongly oppose.

The Buffalo News last week reported that the Seneca Nation of Indians wants the right to develop a casino in downtown Rochester as part of a settlement with New York in a dispute over $572 million in gambling revenue owed the state and local governments.

The published report came less than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal to add up to seven casinos on non-Indian land, with the first three located in Upstate New York.

Meanwhile, Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack—one of the state’s racinos—has begun work on a $12 million expansion that will add hundreds of video lottery terminals and is part of a larger plan that envisions full casino gambling eventually.

In August 2011, 63 percent of respondents to an RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favored legalizing private, non-Indian casino gambling in New York. The state constitution prohibits forms of commercial gambling, other than video lottery terminals. Passing a constitutional amendment requires approval from two consecutive Legislatures, followed by a public referendum.

Roughly 1,000 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Feb. 18 and 19.

Do you favor or oppose putting a casino in downtown Rochester?
Favor strongly: 23% 
Favor: 22% 
Oppose: 18%  
Oppose strongly: 37% 

COMMENTS:

Yeah, look what an economic boom it has been for Niagara Falls and Salamanca. Why not a riverboat casino on the Genesee and help out the waterfront in Charlotte?
—Myron Kowal

I favor a casino, but the location should be elsewhere. How about somewhere like the old Kodak Elmgrove location? Easy to get to, plenty of parking, lots of property close by for development, and most of the infrastructure is in place.
—Lou Romano

I do not think it is the best attraction for downtown, Center City, the city or even the county, but if we do have to have one, it should be at Beebe Station (out-of-service power plant), and then the Native Americans can clean the site up and take advantage of the natural beauty of the gorge, and the MCC students who will likely be at the old Kodak site can walk to work at the casino to put themselves through college. Likely the only give-backs our community might experience. Medley Centre is the only other site that should even be considered, if any site at all.
—M. LoCoco, Rochester

With proper planning, it would be a tremendous boost to our local economy.
—David DeMallie

Downtown needs to be a place where people can live. The essence of a city is a place where people live, work and shop within walking distance, and this has been missing from downtown Rochester for decades. A casino will have people just driving in and out, leaving a wasteland behind. A casino would be the destruction of the city of Rochester.
—Chris Juby

Five will get you 10 that this is a bad idea.
—Bill Lanigan

Why not keep our gambling money local instead of seeing it drive away down the 90! If it is a Seneca casino operation, I think the state should get a sizable revenue cut.
—Rick Papaj, Thornwood Contracting and Inspection

We all have a little fun with games of chance, but the addictive nature of casino gambling results in a tax on the uneducated, poor and depressed. Not in my town.
—Ryan Chylinski

It's funny when you drive all the way to Niagara Falls and run into so many people from Rochester having dinner, enjoying a show or gambling! What's wrong with keeping that money local? Bring shows downtown and employing hundreds of people.
—Donald Swartz

Gambling should never be the solution. Do our leaders have no other options, no better ideas? Gambling doesn't belong in any sound financial plan.
—Vinny Dallo, New York Life

From what I have seen, casino gamblers are nice people who stay in nice hotels and mind their own business. Although it's not my preference, I have several friends who go back and forth to Niagara Falls and have very nice weekends shopping, touring and gaming. The taxes and tourism will be a bonus.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

Seneca Nation must pay the money they owe New York State before we even start any talks! I believe the money is more than $500 million. Look at Niagara Falls, N.Y. They have a casino and more than 60 percent of the city’s population is on some form of government support.
—Harold H. Ley, Appliance Associates of Buffalo

Why not? Are we not trying to rebuild downtown? Does anybody think if we do not put one downtown, that the users will quit going to casinos? We have citizens that ought to “get real” and quit blocking progressive activity!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Just have the Seneca Nation pay the $572 million they owe, and be done with it. What is the justification for causing even more damage?
—George Traikos

What are the demographics of people spending time in other downtown casinos? While we live in a free country and people can do whatever they want with their money, are these casinos drawing in high rollers and tourists, or local people who really can't afford to lose what little money they already have?
—Bruce Zaretsky

Good Lord, no! Look at Atlantic City and Niagara Falls. Big box windowless developments that are sealed off from downtown create long urban dead spaces as we have from Main Street down South Avenue to the expressway ramps. They make money for their owners but have no impact on anything around them. If they are so great, why (aren’t) suburban towns fighting over who gets one?
—Carlos Mercado

Putting a casino downtown is fine so long as its privately owned and not in the “heart” of the city. It would be irresponsible to turn over any existing taxable land to the Seneca Nation. If it were in a prime area, wouldn’t the result be the same as the former Midtown? It reduces vitality by keeping people off the street and turns its back to the streets. Locate it in an area where it would become a destination as opposed to taking traffic from areas that are already succeeding. Has the (thought) of adding to the development in Charlotte been considered?
—David Martin

If it means ceding a substantial piece of our center city to a foreign nation (i.e., Native American tribe) in perpetuity, it’s not a good idea. Ask among those who live near the Turning Stone Casino (in Verona). Hate is not too strong a word to describe that situation.
—Gap Mangione 

Absolutely not! Simple answers are naive. Our city needs better schools, public safety, stronger family units and 21st century jobs. Casinos do not fit on that list. In fact, casinos detract from the progress of that list.
—Jay Birnbaum

Casinos suck the life out of the area they are in and cause more problems than they are worth. The only place I would approve a casino at is the beach area.
—Mike Knox 

If we can't get a casino, how about an IKEA store? We should give IKEA tax breaks, PILOT programs, free utilities, hell, give 'em the entire Midtown site for a superstore. It would draw people from all over the Southern Tier to Syracuse to you name it. With all the colleges here, it would be a retail boon, not to mention all the new lofts springing up downtown.
—Bob Fischl

This idea has all the attractiveness of the fast ferry without the charm of dropping you in Toronto. It is hugely expensive, based on false premises, and has not worked in other cities that bought into the dream and then later regretted it. Like stadiums and other supposed tourism magnets, these mega projects never improve their surrounding neighborhoods and become albatrosses when they age-out or otherwise fail. The future of downtown is high-density housing and the retail to support downtown residents.
—Bob Sarbane

A casino will bring people into downtown Rochester, and bring in revenue. What are we waiting for?
—Natalie Summers

Absolutely! Why ship our entertainment dollars to other communities? It will create jobs here and provide another source of activities for locals and visitors alike. A solid way to help continue the revitalization of downtown.
—Rich Mileo

The business of a casino is to make its customers poor, while making its owners rich. That's its goal, nothing less. If we want a business that will benefit the economy, why bring in one that is directly detrimental to the wealth of the customer; whose only goal is to remove money from the local economy? There are many other businesses that provide beneficial services to its customers. The point is to reduce poverty in our community, not add to it. Of course the Seneca Niagara Casino in Buffalo is by far the best possible proof I can provide. Take a short drive to our neighboring community and enjoy the endless views of extreme poverty and empty lots surrounding that casino.
—J. Eric Bonham, Bonham Associates

Downtown Rochester does not need this sort of "development," and I am extremely disappointed that Gov. Cuomo—a governor whom I generally support—has proposed expanding casinos in New York State. Casinos are absolutely NOT an enhancement economically, socially, or even aesthetically to any community. The people go in—and the money goes right out of the community and into the pockets of people who are not personally invested in Rochester. We will not benefit from a casino downtown.
—Christine Corrado

We need something that is more family-friendly that encourages healthy habits. Gambling does NOT nor will it ever fit this description.
—Cathy Hennessy

A casino would detract from the cultural flair of a more "normal" entertainment and dining environment.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield

Our communities may, at times, consider drastic steps to add jobs and commerce. A casino is one such drastic step, with data that show the elevation of crime, corruption and human misery in the wake of a major gambling business. I would like to hope that our local governments, economic planning groups, business development organizations, and business leaders could work together to develop more meaningful and sustainable business growth opportunities for our region. Let's build a future that we are proud of.
—Laura Weller-Brophy

The Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood helped to turn that part of the city into more of a nightlife draw and could serve as a good model. But casinos generally aren't good practice, in holistic terms, for economic development.
—Ana Liss

If you can find me a once-struggling Rustbelt city with a thriving downtown that was saved by a casino I will give you a cookie. Good luck.
—Dan Palmer, historian

New jobs, entertainment, expanded tourism, contribution to community, contribution to charitable organizations, lower taxes for residents, tax revenues, higher wages, higher property value construction jobs, extending visitors’ stay in area, money put back into local economy, not to mention it will bring people back downtown. We have such a nice city, but there is nothing to do in the downtown area.
—Rob Unger

We want more of our suburban population drawn to down town. I fear that a casino will not be that "draw" to those whom we need and want to have spending more time and money downtown. My further concern is that many who cannot afford to, and should not spend their money in a casino WILL BE drawn to one. It's not my personal vision for an improved downtown Rochester.
—Emily Neece

I've been peddling this for years. The casino should be located in the old RG&E Beebe Station at High Falls. Now with the Seneca Nation looking to locate a casino in Downtown Rochester—let them. All they have to do is perform/pay for the remediation on Beebe.
—Tom Ferraro

A downtown casino, particularly east of the river, would devastate downtown as a destination for other entertainment and cultural attractions. In addition, it probably would negate the current increase in young professionals and empty-nesters interested in living downtown.
—Charles Valenza

Any economic benefit will be far outweighed by the long-term, public health costs related to the damage cigarette and cigar smoking will cause to those who work or gamble in the casino.
—Ross P. Lanzafame

We have enough bums on the street. We don’t have to make more!
—R. Slocomb

I live and work downtown, and our neighborhood has worked hard for years to successfully attract a growing number of homeowners. We do not want parking problems, traffic, noise and crowds on our streets. Our neighborhood is trouble-free, filled with Eastman students and has a quiet, residential feel. We have not worked to upgrade our neighborhood to bring in such a commercial element in our daily lives.
—Roz Goldman

Nothing says, "We have no ideas, no imagination and we have given up and sunk to the lowest denominator" than putting a casino in downtown Rochester. Just look around at other cities that have taken this path. They look run down, unsafe, have no charm and have nothing to do for retail or the arts. So this is the BEST our region can think of?
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design

If Gov. Cuomo truly cares about his constituents, he should stop promoting casinos as a solution to our state deficit and take the high road. The allure and promise of (marginal) paying jobs does not outweigh the negative and enduring consequences caused by gambling. The ripple effects would be broken relationships and family units, increased personal debt and bankruptcies, forgone futures for children of families, personal despair and depression—not to mention the increase in crime and substance abuse. Perhaps some may dismiss this argument as overly dramatic. However, to those who criticize my stance, I ask whether they've spent as much time as I personally have inside casinos and underground card games. My opinion was formed over time as a firsthand account of what I've witnessed and sometimes experienced. During my years as an avid gambler, I never met a successful one. Sure, there are card sharks and hot poker players, but more likely than not, they also have substance abuse problems and gambling is a means to an end. Gov. Cuomo, we elected you to Albany to improve our state and the lives of our citizens. A new casino invites the possibility of financially and morally bankrupting an already struggling community.
—Jim Manou

It will attract a significant percent of unsavory characters, unlimited numbers of buses, loaded with “day customers” who won't spend a dime in the community and basically pull from the overall growth objectives for downtown. Yes, it will bring a new building and tax revenue, but overall for the long-term, I don't believe it belongs here.
—Rod Mattingly

Have you been to Niagara Falls? Have you seen what an incredibly depressed area surrounds the casino there? Slow but steady redevelopment has been occurring in downtown Rochester for more than ten years. Thousands of young professionals and empty nesters now live downtown. There are few ways to more effectively discourage them, destroy downtown's progress and bolster urban poverty than to build a casino.
—Gary Bogue, Independent Consultant

2/22/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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