ANNIE PASQUARIELLO/Special to Bullet News
NIAGARA FALLS – Gaming in Niagara may face challenges ahead not only with the threat of more casinos on this side of the border, but also on the American side.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo was recently in Buffalo and discussed his plans for state-controlled casinos throughout the state and one specifically in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Cuomo and the Seneca Nations of Indians have been in disputes over revenue sharing.
If his threats become a reality, what does this mean for casinos and businesses here?
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati says we have to become more competitive on our side of the river as it could have a negative impact on our casino industry.
“We need to be prepared, we can’t hope. Hope is not a good strategy. We have to be prepared for the competition.”
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor says another casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y., will have an impact on business, but there is such a difference between Niagara Falls on this side of the border than the other side.
“We are not just a casino. We are about attractions, the wine industry, the (Niagara) Parks Commission and a long list. It will be competitive but we have so much more to offer,” says Craitor. “There are a lot of people who travel from around the world to come here. We get 14 million visitors who aren’t coming here just to rush to a casino.”
Missy Lichtenberger, sales manager at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, says from a business perspective a new casino on the other side of the border would not impact them.
“We don’t compete with Niagara Falls, N.Y. Thankfully, Ontario has invested a lot into our destination and we have a lot more to offer than Niagara Falls, N.Y.”
Many local businesses rely on the peak season for extra business, but one local restaurant owner who didn’t feel comfortable using her name says she is not concerned with another casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y. She says that the existing Seneca Niagara Casino has not hurt their business and they still get many tourists at the Dunn Street location. She says “unless the economy changes I do not see it affecting us.”
Diodati says Cuomo’s plan is a real possibility because of the dispute between the Senecas and New York state and reiterated that “it is silly for us to sit back and hope it doesn’t happen. Whether it is Niagara Falls, N.Y., Toronto or Hamilton – we need to be prepared and out-market them and out-maneuver them.”
As a city councilor before the casinos existed in Niagara, Craitor says the rationale to support the casino was about economic development and creating investment in Niagara Falls. He says since the casinos have been here, there has been $5 billion in investments with big hotels and more attractions which brings more people to the city.
He says another casino close by in Niagara Falls, N.Y., “may have an impact but we remain positive that we have a lot to offer.”