Group says casinos aren't the cash machines they're made out to be


Former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson says property taxes in Niagara Falls and Salamanca have gone up, despite the fact that there are casinos owned and operated by the Seneca Nation of Indians in both communities.

Johnson analyzed property tax and crime data from the two communities before and after construction of their casinos. He presented his findings this morning during a press conference organized by the No More Casinos Coalition. The group, which is backed by two area racino operators, opposes a Seneca casino in the Rochester area.

In Niagara Falls, property taxes went up 17 percent between 2002 and 2014, Johnson said. In Salamanca, they went up 16 percent between 2005 and 2014, he said. Those figures matter, he said, because Seneca officials sold the communities on the casinos with claims that the gaming revenue would prevent tax increases, or even lower taxes.

"This really needs to be affirmed and reaffirmed: buyers beware of this pledge," Johnson said.

But Johnson's figures lack context. Neither he nor the No More Casinos Coalition offered comparable data for Batavia or Farmington, communities with racinos within their boundaries. And they didn't offer any data about average tax rate increases for New York communities, including communities without casinos, during the same time periods.

The difference, Johnson said, is that the other communities didn't have casino operators promising to keep taxes down. He said more research is needed to show that the Indian casinos haven't lived up to their promises. And he encouraged residents to continue speaking out against Seneca casinos in Monroe County.
Johnson also said that robberies, burglaries, and larcenies increased in Niagara Falls between 2002 and 2012, though the incidences of those crimes decreased nationally.