Over one-fourth — 26% — of Americans say they don’t always pay their bills on time, and it’s likely that in many cases, the reason behind late or even missed payments is financial strain. Casinos offer temptation to those who are looking to make some quick cash to catch up on bills, even if that approach doesn’t usually pan out. But now, just the mere possibility of a casino opening in midtown Rochester is causing an uproar.
Amid all the grumbling, one group is taking action to prevent a casino from opening as part of the Midtown Rochester Rising Redevelopment project. The group, A Better Rochester, has delivered petitions to City Hall in order to ban Native American gambling venues city wide. They are claiming their right to do so through an amendment to the city charter, and they have collected 12,000 signatures in favor of the ban.
According to the City Corporation Council’s head attorney, Brian Curran, this action is illegal. He tells the Democrat and Chronicle that A Better Rochester is asking the city to do something illegal, since the regulation of gambling falls under federal jurisdiction, not state.
“You can’t amend the city charter to do something the city doesn’t have the power to do,” explains Curran. “That’s really the core question here.”
The petition would ban only Native American gambling venues. Critics say that this is because A Better Rochester is funded by Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack and Batavia Downs, businesses that would have a clear interest in limiting their competition.
The debate is over Parcel 5, a central piece of Midtown real estate. Earlier this year, the Seneca Nation submitted a proposal for a combined gaming and entertainment complex, while city residents are asking for a park or an outdoor performance space.
City officials will continue to accept proposals up until July 15.
A Better Rochester says that if the city fails to act on their proposal within the next 60 days, they will collect even more signatures. An additional 1,700 signatures would be necessary in order to call for a city wide referendum.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has indicated that she is open to the possibility of a gaming center, but her priority for any Midtown development project is the creation of jobs.
There are five full-service Native American-owned casinos throughout the state of New York. The state is headed for a gambling expansion, as voters passed a referendum in 2013 that will bring seven more non-Native American casinos to New York.