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A recent News editorial criticized Rep. John LaFalce for requesting an investigation into the Department of the Interior's highly questionable approval of the Seneca compact. This is interesting, since facts reported by The News were cited in LaFalce's request for an investigation.

Many Erie County residents do not want a casino in Buffalo, because it spells disaster. The development of gambling in depressed urban areas has resulted in net job loss as well as increased social malaise. Gov. George Pataki's plan will do irreparable damage to the businesses, economy and quality of life in Buffalo.

Pataki, through a series of dubious legal maneuvers, did an end-run around the State Constitution, which expressly forbids Class III gambling. The compact creates Seneca reservations in downtown Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It allows the Senecas to establish casinos. And it puts no restrictions on the activities allowed on these new reservations, which means that tax-free businesses -- hotels, shops, gas stations, convenience stores -- can be established, with or without a casino. These businesses, by virtue of their tax-free status, will compete unfairly with local businesses.

Is it possible that The News, which supports a casino in Niagara Falls, but is "ambivalent" about one in Buffalo, is unaware that this compact irrevocably tethers Buffalo and Niagara Falls together in the same fate? If the compact survives legal challenges, then a Seneca casino in Niagara Falls allows one in Buffalo, regardless of what the public wants.

If casino gambling is such a good deal for Niagara Falls, why not do it legally, by amending the State Constitution? Then let the citizens of each community determine if such a scheme is right for them.

Thank God LaFalce has the courage to stand up for us. And, yes, we think principles are very appropriate when fighting political demagoguery. We applaud his determination in representing public opposition to the biggest outrage ever perpetrated in our community.


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