Bowlers across Niagara County have a little something extra to do between frames these days.

By the hundreds, they are filling out comment cards as part of a statewide protest against a proposal to begin forcing bowling alleys to collect sales tax on every game played.

Owners of local alleys say the move, while intended to help fill the state’s massive budget holes, will hurt yet another group of small business owners who are already struggling to survive in New York.

“The people are just absolutely fed up with the state government’s wasteful spending and wasteful taxing,” said James Guercio, general manager of Rapids Bowling Center at 9524 Niagara Falls Blvd. “If this tax passes, I’m considering moving out of this state.”

Paterson’s tentative budget proposal calls for a change in the definition of “amusement” that would allow for the collection of state and local sales taxes at bowling alleys, golf courses, race tracks and other venues where taxes on admission charges did not previously apply. Paterson says the added fees are needed to help close an estimated $14 billion deficit in the state’s 2009-10 budget.

Guercio said the proposed tax on bowling is bad enough, but another revenue-generating plan being pushed by the governor will just add insult to injury for alley managers and owners. Guercio said Paterson’s plan to increase the cost of suger-filled sodas by 18 percent will cut into one of the alley’s biggest revenue generators — soft drinks sales.

So far, more than 1,000 customers have filled out comment cards that will be delivered to Paterson and state lawmakers in protest of the proposed amusement tax.

“It’s not just going to be the taxes,” Guercio said of the challenge of doing business in New York. “Everything is going up. It’s going to be huge increase in price.”

Chris Lofstrand, co-owner of Bowl-o-Drome on Pine Avenue, agreed.

“If we are collecting the tax, we obviously have to pass it on to our customers, just like anything else,” Lofstrand said. “It’s still basically a cheap night out and we want to keep it that way. It’s definitely going to effect our business. Obviously, we’re going to have to raise our prices.”

Bowl-O-Drome has collected more than 300 cards from angry customers - all of them disgusted by the prospect of having to pay an extra tax per game.

“Some of the cards, when you read them, you think, ‘Geez, should I be censoring these,” Lofstrand said. “I’m sending them in just as I get them. People want to be heard.”

Ed Ventry, director of the board for the Niagara Falls USBC Bowling Association, said the numbers show that people are bowling less these days, even in Niagara Falls where it has traditionally been a popular past time. Ventry said his association has been working to spur interest, especially among younger people and that increasing the cost per game certainly won’t help matters.

“The proprietors are going to have pass the cost off to the bowlers, obviously,” Ventry said. “What it’s going to do is - people just aren’t going to bowl as much.”

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