Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Casino foes could better spend their time

Over the course of the past couple weeks ... and years, we've seen people from Western New York come out of the woodwork to try to thwart the efforts of the Seneca Nation of Indians to open casinos in Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

They oppose blight. They oppose gambling. They oppose addiction. But mainly, it would seem to me, they oppose progress.

For every study and statistic I've seen showing that legalized casinos are the downfall of any community they're in, I've seen a corresponding study and statistic stating exactly the opposite.

Although I've read several quotes from attorney Joel Rose and heard him on the radio numerous times saying that his organization, Citizens Against Casino Gambling, opposes a new casino being built in Buffalo (and even the makeshift one open there now), I've never fully understood WHY they oppose it.

A visit to their website didn't help much. Frankly, it seems to be the same old tired "facts" and stats. Casinos are a blight. Gambling an addiction. And they suck money from the community. Blah, blah, blah. According to one post, the Seneca Niagara Casino and Seneca Allegheny Casino cost Western New Yorkers $300 million in gambling losses in 2004.

Were it any other industry generating $300 million in sales, it would be heralded as a victory for the area, but because it's casino gambling, it's derided as being akin to satanism.

Personally, I view casino gambling as a form of entertainment. Every so often, I'll go to the Seneca Niagara Casino ... or even one of the Canadian casinos ... and drop $20 into the slot machines. That's my limit. $20.

I understand that other people aren't as frugal as I am ... and some people spend more than they can afford to at the casino. But those people spend more than they can afford to on everything. They spend too much going out to eat. They spend too much going to the movies. They spend too much on junk food. And yet, I don't hear Joel Rose complaining about the movie, restaurant or grocery industries.

And were there not an option in Niagara Falls and Allegheny for those same folks to go gamble at, I believe a very compelling argument could be made that they'd still be losing money at the casino ... just not the local ones contributing to the local economy. They'd be losing their money in Canada.

Or, worse yet, on the lottery.

If Citizens Against Casino Gambling really wanted to help people who can ill-afford to lose money gambling, they'd fight against the biggest gambling entity in the area: the New York State Lottery.

According to the state lottery commission
, New Yorkers spent $7.9 billion on the lottery in 2007. Of that, $3.9 billion was paid out (or promised) in prizes, $2.5 billion was spent on education, and over $1 billion was spent on operating costs. Assuming "winnings" and "education" aren't losses, that puts the statewide lottery loss at over $1 billion in 2007. My math says that's more than the $300 million "lost" to casino gambling in WNY.

But I haven't heard a peep from Joel Rose on the state lottery. So it would seem to me that it's the "Casino" part of Citizens Against Casino Gambling that his group really opposes. The "Gambling" part must be fine.