Tuesday, October 04, 2005

and not just because I don't know how to play craps.

Someone write to me and tell me why the Seneca Casino in Buffalo is a good idea. Seriously – I’m an advocate for just about anything that brings jobs and tourism to our hometown, but within reason.

Here is my thinking agin' it:

1. It isn’t going to bring in tourists. Back in the day, there were only casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City, so putting one somewhere outside those areas was novel. It isn’t anymore. There’ll be too much competition for this to be the catch-all solution for Buffalo.
1a. That means that the money this casino pulls in will be coming from locals who might otherwise spend it on Chippewa, or Hertel, or God forbid, Weg’s.

2. Yes jobs, but sucky jobs. The vast majority of the jobs that the Nation offers will be part time and minimum wage. Also, I’ve never worked in one myself, but I’m told the turnover rate for a casino like this is pretty fast. So not only are these new jobs going to be low-paying, but on average they don’t last very long.

3. Urban development can’t happen like it did in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I actually don’t know who owns that place, but I know that it’s on taxable land. That means that the Ontario gov’t is getting hundreds of millions of dollars each year in taxes that it can fold back into the community, making sure there’s still an opportunity for competition. The Buffalo casino will be Seneca owned, and not taxable. We’ll be lucky, I’m told, to get nine million dollars a year.

Look, I’m not against gambling – I like it. Mostly because I’m better at it than my brothers. My reasons against the casino are entirely economic. I’m actually ignoring all of the social implications, because I don’t think that’s something I can reliably argue (though, someone in Detroit or Niagara Falls, NY might be able to). I would really like to be okay with having a casino here, I really want to know that it is going to help my home, but I just don’t see that the benefit outweighs the cost. Give me your reasons for it. Comment here, or email them to me at mikegarvey@hotmail.com.

If you can convince me, I’ll buy the first round and then kick your butt at hold’em when it opens.


Anonymous said...

Why aren't those of the native American decent paying taxes in the first place. They are Americans and chose to live here so they should abide by the same rules that the rest of us do. We probably wouldn't be paying so much in taxes if that was the case.

goose said...

I think an NYS casino would be better than a Seneca one, (Niagara Falls, ON is a provincial casino not indian you're right) However, a couple of points:

1.) It will bring in tourists, not in the volume they claim, but it will bring them. Judging from what NF,NY has done visit-wise, (granted they have the whole waterfall thing, but it is the worst town on earth)Buffalo, if politicians use their heads,(no chance)could enjoy almost similar results.

2.)Jobs are actually not sucky, even at Seneca casinos, they pay well above minimum wage, provide full benefits, and can be quite lucrative. I have acquaintences that work as executives, valets, dealers, bartenders, etc... at Seneca Niagara,and enjoy their positions. Also, I am told, that roughly 85-95% of all jobs are held by non-Senecas. Furthermore, a sucky job is better than the 'no-job' that many people in the metro-Buffalo area currently enjoy.

3.)Urban development can happen, though it is difficult and will take time, partly because it would be Seneca owned, and partly because of the setting of metro Buffalo, and it's inept leadership. However, again one need only look to NF, NY where the leadership is just as bumbling if not more so, the economy is just as bad, and yet they have been able to build a state-of-the art convention center across the street, and a brand new hotel/resort HIGHrise (first of its kind in the city). That hotel will have to employ hundreds, if not thousands to make it run correctly, all new jobs, paying decent or higher, with benefits.

Yeah, it's not going to be an overnight quick fix, but then again nothing in this area will, there are a lot more pressing reasons why Buffalo won't 'bounce back' anytime soon. Hope this helps, I doubt it does, this is a love it/hate it issue. If it does, save your $$ on the drink, you'll just end up giving it to me later when we play hold 'em ;)

Scott said...

Ok, you've hit upon a sensitive subject with me. I grew up 10 minutes from Foxwoods and 20 from Mohegan Sun. You simply can't ignore the social aspects of a major casino in forming your opinions.

I watched the restaurants in my hometown slowly get taken over by the casinos because the owners couldn't stay away from the tables. I watched the unemployment rate INCREASE because people are basically stupid, and more and more of them were convinced that they could make more money gambling than working. I watched the homeless rates increase because people were losing their houses at the tables.

85% of the job opportunities at a casino might be above minimum, but are below a living wage. There is a huge difference. The people Goose knows who work at the casinos - dealers, bartenders, executives - are part of the upper 15%. The rest of the work force is support staff who make $8 per hour, and while this is above minimum, it doesn't put food on the table for anyone.

As to tourism and urban development, the entire design objective of a casino is to keep people inside, spending their money INSIDE. NOT OUTSIDE. Don't fool yourselves. Walk a block away from the strip in Atlantic City and tell me what you see. You see nothing. The fact that a casino will bring in tourists will mean next to nothing to the financial coffers of this city. You can't use a casino to jumpstart urban development. It's just not feasable.

That being said, it's basically an inevitability at this point that there will be a casino within the city limits. The question now will be where will it do the least amount of damage?

Anonymous said...

Let's also keep in mind that the money being spent at the casinos, by locals (see above), will be taken from child support payments, rents, mortgages and other financial obligations. This puts more strain on the state (which is much greater than any small strain the Native America population has). Plus, the rate of people becoming addicted to gambling goes up when gambling is available in such a local, easy, setting. This does not create employees that are happy working period (or showing up, or working hard, etc)-- in a casino, outside a casino, etc. Further, this is also linked to the criminal element -- when foreclosures (and other financial difficulties) begin to occur people become more and more desparate, which leads into greater rates of crime-- ranging from theft, assualts and loan sharking. Crime statistics go up dramatically around areas that house casinos. (again, note the burden to the state and local govts.). So. many. reasons. against. this.

Garvey said...

Two more things. Buffalo, as much as I love it, isn’t a tourism destination, and I think that’s the element that a lot of casino advocates are missing. Yeah, it might pull in a few people who are driving past the city, but can you honestly imagine anyone, let’s say in Ohio, changing their vacation plans to WNY, just because they can play some slots? Even if it is in a world class, one-of-a-kind joint, I just think that the casino market is already saturated, simply by having the ones we have.

Secondly, Goose, I think I misspoke (mistyped?). I don’t think there is a catch-all solution for Buffalo. You’re right – the things that make great cities great were built up over years, decades. But from everything I’ve been able to reason, this casino is a step in the wrong direction. (I honestly don’t know if Bass Pro is the answer either, by the way. I’ll tell you what will help Buffalo though. It’ll start with better radio stations.)

Esther said...

John and I love to go to the casino. We head up to Canada once or twice a year and drop $100 or so playing roulette. We spend that much on a night out bar hopping or on dinner or a Sabres game. Its a date like any other. I'm sure there are many people out there that will simply cut out the bar hopping, dinner, or Sabres game and spend all their discretionary income at the casino.

I was in NF on Saturday evening, the American side, and drove past Seneca Niagara casino. There was no one around. There were no restaurants, hotels, malls, none of the promised booming economic development that was supposed to save that area. I don't think Buffalo is going to be any different, except it may have MORE to lose than NF.

goose said...

Again, I reiterate, this is a love it/hate it issue(kind of like the Yankees!). I don't think people are going to change their minds. Personally, I like casinos, I like gambling, I'm a fan of poker, and craps. However, I have restraint, if I go twice a year, it's a lot. I don't agree with the "poor people will become poorer because they'll fritter away all of their money at the casino" argument. They would find a way to do that anyway, and most likely are at present. The inability to control oneself's spending habits is a compulsion, whether it's on gambling, alcohol, food, or shopping. Therefore, if we remove casinos because people won't be able to help themselves from gambling necessary funds, why do not then remove bars, fast-food restaurants, and shopping malls??

As for other areas that may or may not be tourist destinations, I know this: Vegas, Reno, and Laughlin used to be desert. Biloxi was nothing but a coastal Miss. sleepytown. Closer to home, Niagara Falls ON, was one street, maybe two, of haunted houses, putt-putt and "I LUV THE FALLS" screened T-shirt kiosks. To say things have changed would be one hell of an understatement. BUT IT TOOK TIME.

Essentially, I'm just glad SOMETHING is being done, at least for the moment the stagnant waters have been rippled. If there is a co-ordinated effort to expand growth in the city along with this casino project, I think we could be in for a surprise. Let's be patient and see what happens, because right now all of these statements amount to nothing more than "pre-game hype/analysis" before a sporting event. No one here, or anywhere knows for certain what a casino will do for Buffalo, it's all conjecture. Let the game be played out and remember, "Any Given Sunday...."

Anonymous said...

The issue about people spending their money inproperly at a casino is not to say there should not be a casino in order to control how people spend their money. Instead, this should be a major concern because of how that will effect those single mothers who rely on that as a source of income and means to support their children. BEYOND the fact that these addicts or poor will have less money to spend in the consumer rehlm, in the mom and pop stores that people feel the casinos will bring in. How? There will be less money to spend in these establishments. Unfortunately, there are innocent victims (children and small businesses) as a result of those persons spending their NON-discretionary income. Plus, there are issues with bankruptcy, welfare, etc. that pop up as a result. The discretionary income argument is a great one, but are casual "dates" here and there going to fully support a casino business model? No, casinos have to rely on addicts and big time money rollers (who I would argue will not be coming into the Buffalo area)-- those people who gamble not just on a Friday, Saturday night or on their days off but on every, single Tuesday morning, Wednesday afternoon and Sunday nights. That is why casinos are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and on Christmas. They cater to those who have a problem.