Recently, I read that the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls are considering allowing high-stakes bingo in their jurisdiction.
The high-stakes bingo would be run by the Seneca Nation of Indians. New York State heavily regulates bingo as we know it today. Only not-for-profit organizations, such as parochial schools and churches, can hold a bingo license. We are limited to jackpot amounts, hours of operation and will soon be mandated to provide two separate and distinct areas for smokers and non-smokers by Erie County. All of these regulations and more would not apply to the Seneca Nation. The property that would be deeded to the Senecas would be declared a reservation and thus exempt from county and state oversight.
The respective city Councils must look long and hard at the long-range effect of allowing high-stakes bingo to effectively destroy the current state-regulated bingo. The revenue from bingo is critical to the operation of many schools and churches. If this revenue is lost, tuition must be raised, causing a decrease in enrollment and, in some cases, schools to close. These students are going to end up in the already overstressed public schools. The additional cost of educating these children will far exceed any economic benefit the cities will derive from allowing high-stakes bingo in their downtown area.
Indian nations have proven successful in attracting gamblers to remote locations for high- stakes gambling, and they should be allowed to operate on their reservation without interference from the state, including not having to collect taxes.
Joseph M. Shiah Kenmore