Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 3, 2013

Casino issue seems to draw little interest

Niagara Gazette — When the tourist industry here first touted casino gambling as a savior for the struggling Cataract City economy, public reaction was mixed.

Proponents, of course, envisioned it as the sure way to fill downtown hotels, boost the attendance at attractions, and create countless jobs for a community still battered by the recession and a steady decline in the manufacturing sector. The opponents, as you might expect, ran the gamut from Bible-thumping preachers to the staunch anti-gambling citizen groups like ‘Casinos —No Dice!’ and “Casinos Mean Mobs”)

Many of us have vivid memories of those days: the sharp cutbacks in local industries, hundreds of families impacted by the seemingly endless layoffs, and the tarnished image of Niagara Falls in the wake of the Love Canal disaster.

Even if casino gambling was a cure, local residents never had a chance to voice their opinion. Instead, the Albany lawmakers were bogged down in their turf battles — upstate v. downstate — and the matter was not approved by both houses at the Capitol. As a result, the long-anticipated question never appeared on the November ballot.

Now more than 30 years later, it will be one of the proposed amendments in the general election (Nov. 5). In fact, it will be the first of six amendments that voters will find across the top of the ballot, above all the candidates’ lines. At present, Gov. Cuomo, who supports the casino proposal, hasn’t done much to spread the word. Local residents can’t be blamed for their devil-may-care attitude toward the question. Don’t be surprised if it goes down the tubes.

Unfortunately, an incredible number of voters usually fail to vote on any of the amendments, whether by accident or design. Surveys have consistently shown that those voters beg off with the excuse they simply didn’t understand the wording.That won’t be the case this fall, at least with the casino question. As critics have noted, the wording is definitely slanted toward the pro-casino stand. After all, who’s going to vote against “promoting job growth, increasing aid to education, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated” by the casinos? Certainly not the Brooklyn lawyer who is suing the state Board of Elections for overstepping its authority in approving the referendum language.

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