Thursday, January 3, 2013

No Virginia, Not Only is There No Santa Claus, But Casino Gambling Will Not Spur Economic Development

Suffering in Niagara Falls Illustrates Failure of an Economy Based on Gambling

There is almost nothing more curious in the United States than the attitude and policy with respect to casinos.  In many states, for reasons beyond the comprehension of most of us Native Americans have been awarded monopolies on casinos.  This has something to do with old treaties, sovereignty and a policy of helping native American communities ravaged by economic poverty.

Also for reasons too difficult to comprehend the community of Niagara Falls has been an economic blight for decades.  This failure is an amazing accomplishment, given the natural attraction of the falls and the example of the Canadian operations just across the Niagara River.  In Canada the Falls are a major economic success.  In the U. S. the city of Niagara Falls is a monument to stupidity, greed, incompetence and outright criminal activities.

Much of the area around the towering Seneca Niagara Casino remains empty and blighted.
Much of the area around the towering Seneca Niagara Casino remains empty and blighted. James P. McCoy/News file photo

So granting the Seneca Indians the right to operate a casino just wasn’t the answer.

The Seneca Nation cashed in on the deal, and the casino is one of few large employers or tourist magnets on the American side of the international attraction of the falls.

But the city is broke, on life support without $60 million in slot machine payments the Senecas haven't paid over three years because of their fight with New York State.

Unemployment rates in Niagara Falls are among the highest in the state, and only one major development project – the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute – has occurred in the last 10 years.

Much of the area around the casino remains empty and blighted.

The answer, of course is well known.  A community grows and prospers with a mix of private sector clean manufacturing and service jobs, combined with good government.  A casino enriches its owners, and provides some jobs but mainly it contributes nothing to the local culture.  Exactly who wants to live near a casino.

“I don't see how I'm benefiting from any of this,” said Joey Sedore, who lives a block from the towering Seneca hotel.

Sedore, 35, has lived downtown all his life, and he still doesn't feel safe walking his kids down the streets around the casino.

“It really hasn't transformed anything except that property right there,” he added, pointing to the casino.

But dreams of the easy fix die hard.  So instead of doing the difficult work of building a city based on real economics, more and more communities will turn to gambling as a way to get a quick, easy solution.  Which would be great if indeed it were a quick easy solution.

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