A Group Wants Rochester City Council To Ban Native American Gaming

A Group Wants Rochester City Council To Ban Native American Gaming July 8, 2016 July 8, 2016 Paul Butcher
 General July 8, 2016 by Paul Butcher

A Better RochesterThe battle over building a gaming facility in a central plot within the city of Rochester, New York is heating up. A group that calls itself ‘A Better Rochester’ has been filing petitions with the city’s council to ban Native American gaming in the city.

Officials from the city administration had initiated informal discussions with the Seneca Nation of Indians for building a gaming facility or slots parlour along with a performing arts centre in a vacant city lot which previously held the Mid-town Plaza.

The city also approached Tom Wilmot, a developer running del Lago Resort and Casino in the Seneca County.

A Better Rochester

According to city officials, a ban on Native American gaming activities was illegal. The corporation counsel Brian Curran said that while the petition was still being reviewed, the ban was unlikely since state and federal governments regulate gaming and not municipalities. He said that the city cannot amend the city’s charter to do something that it does not have the power to do.

The city has 60 days to act on the petitions. The group said if there is no action by then, it would collect sufficient signatures to trigger a referendum on the matter. So far the group has collected 12,000 signatures and needs another 3,500 signatures to place it before the City Council, while another 1,700 signatures could push it for the ballot. A Better Rochester is backed by the owners of gaming properties of del Lago, Batavia Downs and Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack.

Lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy, acting for ‘A Better Rochester’ said that while the group might be furthering its own interests, the 12,000 citizens who signed the petitions had to have their own reasons to do so. According to Gaddy, placing a gaming facility in the middle of the city would devastate the social fabric of the city.

Three of the City Council members have already expressed their opposition to having a casino in the middle of the city. Two of them, Carolee Conklin and Molly Clifford have said that they are concerned about transferring property located within a city to a sovereign nation.

The third council member Elaine Spaull said that the land should be used for something that acts as a connector for the city. Another council member Matthew Haag said that the casino was unlikely to be an economic driver that officials think it would be. Haag stated that while he was open to explore proposals, he was likely to vote against a casino. Many residents are calling for the land to be used for a park or an outdoor performance space.

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