A group known as ‘A Better Rochester’ has started to put pressure on the City Council to ban Native American casinos from operating in Rochester. The group is funded by the Batavia Downs and del Lago, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack owners who run gaming interests in the region. One of the main reasons for the opposition is to ensure that they remove any opportunity for competition to arise.
‘A Better Rochester’ is being led by lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy and Patrick Malgieri, an attorney who have so far managed to obtain around 12,000 signatures from casino opponents. The group submitted their petitions to City Hall on July 6 and wants the ban to be imposed through an amendment to the city charter. Should the City Council not make a decision in the next 60 days, the group will look to obtain more signatures and push for a voter referendum in November 2016.
Gaddy stated that the 12,000 signatures are yet to be verified and there are plans to obtain another 3,500 so that it can be presented to the City Council. If the group succeeds in getting an additional 1,700 signatures, it could then be put on the ballot. The Council states that as of now it is highly unlikely for them to impose a ban on Native American run casinos, especially because the city has not received any official proposals to date. Should an official proposal come in for a casino facility, it is highly unlikely that the city will approve it, irrespective of the pressure being imposed by ‘A Better Rochester’.
City officials had earlier had discussions with the Seneca Nation of Indians to invest into the former Midtown Plaza site and develop a slot parlor or a combined gaming facility with a performing arts center. Even though there is no official proposal as of now, ‘A Better Rochester’ does not want to leave anything to chance as two rough proposals from developer Tom Wilmot, owner of the del Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County and from the Seneca Nation have been sent in. The City has asked any developer who is interested in the Parcel 5 location at the Midtown Plaza site to send in their official proposals before July 15.
Brian Curran, Corporation Counsel stated that his office is in the process of reviewing the process and his first impression was that the group was asking the City to do something that was not legal because municipalities did not have the authority to regulate gambling in New York as those decisions were left with the federal and state governments. In a statement, Curran said “You can’t amend the city charter to do something the city doesn’t have the power to do. That’s really the core question here.”
There are also a number of residents in Rochester who have called on the City Council to turn the parcel of land into an outdoor performance space or a public park.