About the Seneca Casino and the Buffalo News

December 29, 2007

Casino ChipsWhat started out as my comment to this article at In da Buff’s blog became a manifesto, and is reproduced in its entirety here. I am really tired of how the local media loves to portray opportunity as a affront. It is a fear tactic that might sell papers but sure as hell doesn’t help the area’s psyche.

Anyway, both the blog and the News article are about the Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls; it was on the front page of today’s Buffalo News and is entitled “Casino No Jackpot for Falls. My comment about it follows below…

I am opposed to casinos in Western New York. They generally breed more problems than they bring solutions.

That being said, I think this was a cynical and pessimistic article, typical of the type of journalism foisted on us by the Buffalo News. Regardless of my disdain for casinos, I am well aware that they draw crowds and bring opportunities. All you need to do is look across the river at Niagara Falls Canada.

Not so with Niagara Falls USA. The local government, the business community and the press cannot get their arms around the potential. They cannot get their ideas out of committee much less onto the ground.

At the very least the News could have focused on ideas that been tossed about because of the new revenue stream. They could have researched other regions, similar to ours, that also have new casinos to determine if and how those regions benefited (or suffered), and the timeline that it took for change to occur. They could have discussed if casino saturation is happening in the U.S. and how that might be affecting the Seneca Casino. Hell, they simply could have asked if the Canadian casinos are helping to draw visitors to our casino (and area) on the U.S. side of the border. Instead, they gave the upside potential what, a couple paragraphs?

Worse, the article begs the question (but does not answer): “What became of the $23 million this year – and the many millions of dollars in years past – that the casino has paid to the city? Don’t you think that if you suddenly had $75M or $100M of BRAND NEW REVENUE that you’d be able to show a little more for it than the convention center upgrade (much of which was paid for by New York State)? How come the News is up in arms over the Casino being “No Jackpot for Falls” but not about where all the money’s gone? They seemed pretty quick to blame the casino for the lack of development off the Seneca Nation property; isn’t that the city’s responsibility?

If I were a city planner and regardless of my position on casinos I would be embracing, not denigrating, the Seneca Casino. At every opportunity I would be talking to their management and asking “How can we do more with the area? What should we do first? What should we do next? What would draw in even more tourism? How can we remove stumbling blocks?” At every opportunity I’d be calling the News and telling them about the great things that the casino provides today and will provide in the future. I’d be playing up this golden goose as much as I possibly could because after all, if I can help make them immensely successful then at least I too reap some benefit. To do otherwise is cutting off my own nose.

Based on the article – and because of the lack of references I have no idea if the article is the truth – I would say that Niagara Falls USA has done little constructive planning and is already pointing at the Seneca casino as a cause of, rather than a solution to, its problems. The News is more than willing to sensationalize the downside of this because, well, because that’s what it does best.

Shame on both the City of Niagara Falls and the Buffalo News for allowing this article to appear in the form in which it appeared.

I apologize for the long-winded comment but I’m really pissed off about how our media continues to beat down on an already demoralized community, which merely feeds that cycle of “it’ll never work” pessimism. The casino is here. There is clearly so much opportunity to be gained, and we should be taking advantage of it at every turn.

Losing One’s Place

December 27, 2007

My colleague and friend is going to leave the U.S. in about a month.  He does not want to do so.

He is a foreign national from Pakistan.  He came here in 1990 to go to college, fell in love with Western New York, and has never left.  Last summer his attorney told him that based on his applications for both a green card and U.S. citizenship he would not have to re-apply for an H1B visa, which allows him to stay and work in the U.S. in 3-year increments.

His attorney was wrong.  As a result, Ali’s visa expired and now there is little chance that he will be able to continue his employment with us after January.  He is being forced to return to Pakistan in order to apply for a new visa that will allow him back in the U.S.  The process could take upwards of a year to complete.

All this while Pakistan erupts into chaos.

Did you ever see the movie The Terminal?  Tom Hanks portrays Victor Navorsky, a person stuck at JFK International Airport when his country undergoes a war that essentially wipes their government off the map.  I feel like Ali is about to be stuck in the same position.  He can’t go home, and he can’t stay here.

This story does not have a happy ending.  It will literally take an act of Congress to change the INS ruling.  So our company decided to call Congressman Higgins’ office to see if there is anything he can do to help.  This is a long shot but frankly, it’s worth the effort if it helps my friend stay in the U.S.

After 17 years in the U.S. Ali is no longer Pakistani.  I fear for my friend’s safety and for the loss that our company will face when he can no longer work for us.

In a Christmas Mood

December 24, 2007

Christmas WreathOn this Christmas Eve I got to thinking:  Has Birds Eye Foods’  VP for Business Development ever been called the Prince of Peas?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.  Don’t forget to think about the really important things in life.

Time to Read “The Hobbit”

December 18, 2007

The HobbitPeter Jackson and New Line Cinema reached agreement to produce the movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which was the prequel to Lord of the Rings.  Jackson showed such capability in capturing the detail of the Lord of the Rings books that there is no doubt he will do the same for The Hobbit.  If he is allowed to conform to the standards that he himself set, the film is almost guaranteed to become a classic.

Most people who saw Lord of the Rings – it was spectacular cinema – probably did not read Tolkien’s trilogy; this is unfortunate as the richness of the books far surpasses the richness of the movies. (And to put it into perspective, Lord of the Rings is one of the few films that ever did its pedigree any justice.  “Of Mice and Men” is the only other film that I can think off the top of my head that’s also up there).

The first of the two Hobbit movies is scheduled for release in 2010.  I strongly suggest reading The Hobbit prior to seeing the film.  The film will be that much better.

Ya Know What Really Pisses Me Off???

December 17, 2007

Pissed OffThis website.  WNY Media started it, around mid-November.  I thought it was cute and apparently, so did whoever helped start it – for all of about 5 days, after which no one submitted anything new.

It was amusing in the same way that web sites about, say, old telephones, are amusing:  Really focused in on that singular theme.  I had hoped that this site would bring attention not to the myriad major problems affecting our area but rather those small, picayune shards of life that slowly suck the life out of us.

This site could be a gold mine for those who find our troubles humorous, or our humor troubling.  Either one.

Maybe it’ll be updated soon.  I’d consider submitting this post only it’s not pissy enough.

RIP Dan Fogelberg

December 17, 2007

Twin Sons of Different MothersDan Fogelberg died yesterday.  Twin Sons of Different Mothers will forever be one of my favorite albums.

Rest in Peace, Dan.  Thank you for your creativity.

The Impact of Snow in Western New York

December 17, 2007

SnowstormOkay, so this weekend’s snow storm did not turn into the crippling blizzard it was all hyped up to be.  Traffic never really suffered and I know that if my wife and I had wanted to go out to dinner Sunday evening, we could have made the trip with prudent driving.

What impressed me was that during my jaunt to the very busy supermarket on Saturday morning,  the bulk of the supplies being purchased, aside from the usual milk and bread, consisted of beer, pop, chips and pretzels.

Here in Western New York it is obvious that we use snowstorms as a reason to party.