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City Hall Wins at Slots, Revises City Budget

slotsAbandoning claims that a steady stream of red light runners will fund the hiring of 20 new police officers once surveillance cameras are installed at 50 city intersections, city officials now say that a windfall from the Seneca Casino will pay for the new hires.

The Buffalo News reports that $2.5 million—twice as much as was expected from Albany—will be coming to the city, based on receipts from the small blue building on sovereign Seneca territory in the cobblestone district.

One can only hope the new cops will be enough to cope with the increased crime that comes to places with casinos, as described in this May 2006 report in the Washington Post. Columnist Richard Morin writes, “Crime began to rise after the first year, slowly at first and then more quickly, until it had far surpassed what it would have been if the casino had never opened. By the fifth year of operation, robberies were up 136 percent; aggravated assaults, 91 percent; auto theft, 78 percent; burglary, 50 percent; larceny, 38 percent; and rape, 21 percent. Controlling for other factors, 8.6 percent of property crimes and 12.6 percent of violent crimes were attributed to casinos.”

Here is some interesting research by Earl L. Grinols, Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois, and University of Georgia Economist David B. Mustard, whose work is referred to in the Post column.

Some may see this as a wise use of an unpredicted windfall, but I say it’s time to parlay. Why quit when you’re on a roll with Albany? Just think of all the improvements that could come to the city if the mayor were to take the extra $1.25 million he wasn’t even counting on, and put it all into tickets for the Mega Millions! It only takes a dollar and a dream.

Senecas Lose Big Gamble

Just when it seemed that Buffalo was poised to join the elite list of glamorous places like the newly opened Downstream Casino, located in the middle of, well, somewhere—seven miles from Joplin, Missouri and 17 miles from Miami, Oklahoma—US District Judge William M. Skretny steps in to spoil the party down on old Fulton Street by citing the law.

As of today, the temporary casino downtown is operating outside the law, and the fate of the Seneca’s $330 million permanent casino/hotel/restaurant/spa, already under construction, is in question.

Will his decision help or hurt the second poorest city in the country? Read his ruling here.

John LaFalce on Casino Gambling

Bruce Jackson has just posted this essay by former Congressman John LaFalce over at Buffalo Report:

On June 25, 2008, a gigantic struggle took place on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives involving casino gambling in the State of Michigan. That controversy and struggle is highly instructive on the question of the legality of casino gambling in Buffalo.

Two titans of the House, John Dingell (D-Mich), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and John Conyers (D-Mich), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stood in opposing corners and came out fighting.

Rep. Dingell wants a casino in Port Huron, and doesn’t want the issue to go to the U.S. Department of Interior for its review. So he is trying to “legislatively” bypass Interior review, and permit casino gambling in Port Huron by mandating that the Secretary of the Interior “shall” take into trust certain land as part of a land claim settlement. The bill at least recognized that the land had to be taken into trust.

Rep. Conyers says he opposes gambling in principle, but also doesn’t want another casino in Michigan, which would compete with the casino that already exists in his city of Detroit. Conyers also argued it would be wrong to bypass the Interior Department’s review as to whether it should take it into trust, especially since he is confident Interior will render a negative opinion. An overwhelming majority of the House agreed with Conyers, and defeated the attempted bypass by a vote of 121 to 298.

So how is this relevant to Buffalo?

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