.. Ladies and gentlemen ...
A group of Americans rise and applaud the idea that Americans should have legal equality with Seneca in Niagara Falls
Based on ethnicity, a Seneca can open a casino; an American may not. They can open a business tax-free. We may not. They can build without complying with building codes; we may not. They can seize land and take it out of America and make it part of Seneca for more tax-free businesses. They can secede from the Union — piecemeal. We may not, of course.
And this they exercise, not on historic reservation, but in downtown Niagara Falls, historically part of the USA.
Indian gaming elsewhere is on historic reservations. But our government took land in the heart of a downtown American city and gave it to a sovereign nation — to profit at our expense.
The bizarre plan is that Albany gets 25 percent of slot machine revenue. Every other kind of business is tax-free for Seneca.
The genesis is one of perfect lunacy: Albany ruled gambling is evil. Since 1821, it has been banned by state constitution. So Albany gave the middle of downtown Niagara Falls to the Seneca Nation of Indians so that Americans could go on foreign soil — which used to be American soil — and gamble, constitution or not.
Consider: Seneca has 2,200 slot machines. 25 percent of Albany’s share is Niagara Falls’ share.
People talk about a billion-dollar casino — the city’s share, however, is equivalent to a measly 138 slots — which cost as little as $500,000 to buy and install. But amazingly we do not even get the local share. Most is controlled by Albany. Only a pittance is spent at the discretion of local officials — as genuine pork.
Meanwhile, it makes billions for Seneca and hundreds of millions for Albany.
And contrary to what was promised, it’s not tourists, but mainly regional people, who bet and lost at Seneca.
When there are tourists, they stay at the glistening Seneca hotel, eat at the tax-free elegant restaurants, buy souvenirs at the shimmering tax-free Seneca stores and, perchance, take a hasty walk two blocks over to the state park and come hurriedly back without spending a dime in the failing, aging unglamorous city.
In six years, more than a billion of regional monies lost gambling alone.
Join us, won’t you? If you believe that you, your children and all
Americans deserve legal equal rights with Seneca, please sign our petition.
Mail to One Niagara, 360 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14303
Yet the problem isn’t the substitution of discretionary dollars from locally owned entertainment businesses into foreign gaming, but that Seneca is expanding into non-gaming businesses.
It’s economics 101: The transfer of wealth: Seneca is gleaming, while dozens of local, American businesses collapse. Closed to date: 11 restaurants, 26 taverns, 14 retail stores and four hotels. The ice skating rink closed. The Convention Center lost. The area adjacent to Seneca plunged into desolation.
Meanwhile Seneca opens a buffet, a pub, a steakhouse, an Italian restaurant, an Asian restaurant, a glamour spa, a conference center, a bistro, a coffee shop, a nightclub, numerous souvenir and gift shops, and a 26-story, 604-room hotel all tax-free. More stores are coming
If people drive miles to rural reservations to save a few pennies on cigarettes and gasoline, imagine how far they’ll drive when Seneca has as many stores as the Galleria Mall.
Or consider: The Como — the landmark Italian restaurant. Over decades, they paid millions in property, state income and sales taxes. Seneca, on the other hand, opened an Italian restaurant, built with tax-free materials, without complying with building codes. It pays no property tax, no income tax, and, unlike the Como, Seneca does not have to charge its customers 8 percent sales tax on food and beverage sold.
Do the math: If the Como pays $300,000 in combined taxes annually, and Seneca pays zero, how many bowls of spaghetti does the Como have to sell before achieving the same profit, or to say it bluntly — to get equality with Seneca?
Or consider: Seneca displaced our convention center, where out-of-town people convened, then went to local hotels and restaurants. It became a foreign casino, where tourists rarely venture to shop or dine in American-owned businesses. If they stay in a hotel, they stay in Seneca.
The convention center made money for locals from out-of-town people; the Seneca Casino makes money for out-of-town people (Seneca and Albany) from mainly locals. Now Seneca is planning its own convention center.
Consider, also, the deterrent effect: What new business would, in a highly taxed, over-regulated and declining city, want to invest and compete against a tax-free nation next to it?
Some, however, believe Seneca is having positive impact. Slot machine revenue generates hundreds of millions for Albany (to aid New York City). A couple million trickles in to Niagara Falls.
And $72 million was paid in payroll. Yet the latter was paid mainly in hourly divisions near minimum wage. Seneca is converting most American jobs to part-time to avoid paying benefits to workers. The average American’s job at Seneca pays around $17,000, like McDonald’s and convenience stores. And Seneca has an employment policy that permits them to fire an American worker to give his or her job to a Seneca.
Meanwhile, studies show for every job created by a casino, at least one regional (better paying) job is lost. There aren’t more jobs, just more of us working under Seneca.
Some point to positive development: The Seneca-Niagara Hotel, largest in the area, has deluxe rooms and pillow-top beds: Local hotels would have pillow-top beds, if they paid no property, sales, income or bed tax.
And Seneca plans to build more hotels, one with 800 rooms another with 450 — all tax-free.
Even the feeble-minded ought to comprehend that when you open brand-new, glistening hotels and pay no taxes — you have a distinct advantage over aging American hotels struggling under the weight of New York’s high taxes.
If you add hundreds of millions in sales tax lost; property tax lost on (former U.S.) now Seneca land; lost convention business; businesses failures because of unfair Seneca advantages; the substitution of local entertainment money into gambling; and the cost of gambling addiction — regional losses add up to billions.
Of course, some feeble-hearted people feel they owe the debts of their ancestors who they erroneously think “stole” Niagara Falls from the ancestors of Seneca.
Actually, it was the “Neutrals,” a peace-loving Indian tribe that occupied Niagara Falls until the mid-18th century, when Seneca came and wiped them out. Seneca never historically occupied Niagara Falls. They “stole” Niagara Falls and squatted here a brief 50 years before early Americans threw them off and made Niagara Falls part of the USA.
I suggest it’s time you stopped feeling guilty for the manhood of your European-American ancestors. If your ancestors conquered them, kindly remember the warlike Seneca would have conquered your ancestors, if they’d had the strength.
The difference is, had Seneca won, it’s unlikely they would feel guilty. Ask any one of them if they think they should share their gaming profits with the descendants of the Neutrals. No, I do not think we should allow foreigners to have more rights than our own children.
“Foreigners?” my critics chastise. “They are more American than you!”
But Seneca, by self-acclamation, is a sovereign nation. You can’t have it both ways: American when it suits you; a foreign nation when it helps you.
“Still,” referring to people such as Columbus or Custer, my critics rebut, “‘We’ savaged the Indians!”
But their argument that I, you or “we” should have lesser legal rights, based on deeds done by others prior to our birth, just because they had the same skin color, is blatantly racist. Demanding equality is not racist.
If every business person in Niagara united, we could make a city-wide challenge to Albany’s treasonous conversion of N.Y. land to sovereign territory
We could charge tolls on roads into Seneca or sue Albany on the faultiness of a compact that left locals on an insurmountably uneven playing field.
We could require passports to re-enter the United States from the Seneca nation. DWI checkpoints. Vehicle inspections.
The city provides Seneca with water and wastewater treatment. We could charge them enough to become rich. Instead of Seneca capturing our town, we could make them submit to equality.
We could vote for politicians who support this cause: If Seneca is tax-free in Niagara, all Americans should be tax-free. If Seneca can open a casino, Americans in Niagara Falls should be able to open a casino.
In the end, my point is one of, really, simple patriotism. Join us, won’t you?
Frank Parlato Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.