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Debating a downtown casino

Reader feedback 4.14.04 


I have been in a casino once in my life, for about 20 minutes, and I have no desire to partake. That said, I wish that New York State would legalize casino gambling. Let the developers build casinos on every corner, and if people wish to gamble they will flourish. If not, they'll be gone faster than you can say "fast ferry." Why don't we let people decide how they will spend their entertainment dollars? Freedom: it's a great concept.

            "Win? Lose? Draw?" (July 7) regurgitates every stale argument I've seen in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and every other place that has flirted with opening a casino. If any other business were to come into downtown promising 1,000 jobs and filling two empty, lifeless buildings, the city and county would be throwing tax abatements, cash incentives, and every other inducement at the developers.

            Nobody would care if it brought more business downtown, or if the patrons or employees would stick around for dinner or just run back home. The promise of those jobs would be enough.

            Whenever talk turns to a casino, suddenly everybody becomes concerned about what effect a casino will have on other existing bars, restaurants, and entertainment options. Nobody asked that when we decided to throw government money at a ferry to take people to Toronto to spend their money or tried to turn High Falls into an entertainment district to compete with others already in the city. Nobody questions what opening any other type of business --- restaurants, theaters, nightclubs --- will have on similar existing companies.

            Then, of course, there's addiction. Gambling addiction seems to be on everybody's mind. Strangely, alcohol addiction is much more common in our society. Surely alcohol, a highly addictive substance, causes more broken homes, broken noses, and date rapes than gambling ever has.

            Oh, wait: now I see. All those ads in City...for bars and restaurants. Oh.

            Gerard Guidoni, Rochester

            The editors' response: Actually, we assume that if Rochester gets a casino, the City sales staff will be eager for its ads. Casinos spend big bucks in alternative newsweeklies in other parts of the country.


Public apathy and the lack of decent jobs for youth seem to be pushing Rochester to the brink of allowing a casino.

            Developer Tom Wilmot challenges the mayor to come up with a better plan; my friends and I have one. The only problem is, we do not have the endless startup capital that an Indian tribe might.

            Our idea is to make Rochester a regional and state center of entertainment and fun, to tie the ferry together with air travel and light rail, and to create unique attractions that don't rely on tantalizing the less fortunate with dreams of free money.

            There are fewer problems with gaming if it is a taxable source of income for the city and doesn't degrade those who choose to take part, but a casino hardly attracts a wide audience.

            Where do kids fit in? How are their needs served? Perhaps companies such as Disney, ESPN, and other big names that have opened successful entertainment attractions would be more palatable. Imagine a Midtown complex with an ESPN Zone, a downtown Disney, a "faux" casino where games are played with fake money, an indoor water park with slides and a wave pool.... The potential is awesome for diverse ways to have fun --- ways that can appeal to a much wider base.

            We tend to forget about our city's greatest gift to the world: Kodak. As an industry, it may have lost its crown, but it's still a recognizable brand worldwide. What about a museum of Frank Gehry magnitude and beauty, either in Midtown or High Falls on the site of the Beebee plant, dedicated to the arts and sciences of film, movies, and photography? Imagine turning Rochester into not a seedy gambling town but an American Bilbao with culture, identity, and pride.

            Rochesterians are hardly as financially overburdened as some destitute parts of America are, and we can re-establish ourselves as an important destination. What we need is a focus on how to re-grow, how to bring in more attractions and to actually unify the suburbs.

            Allowing a casino is giving up, losing faith, and passing the buck. If Rochester is willing to do that, then let the bulldozers come in and destroy all that is beautiful and unique here. I strongly believe that the only hope is attracting the attention of all the classes, from Pittsford to public housing.

            As for Wilmot: he should be challenged by the people, especially the wealthy, to do better, and to pay off his own debts without making backroom deals. I would rather see a local mafia running a family center than Wilmot and the Seneca-Cayugas profiting off the backs of our unemployed pensioners and laborers.

            Finally, if Rochester truly wants a casino, there is a much better location: in the Genesee hospital on Alexander Street. For far less money, that location could be transformed with a more attractive and controllable site than Midtown ever could be.

            Please, open your minds and write, speak, call whomever you know, urging them to do something. Action has to start now.

            Jonathan Eziquiel-Shriro, Buckingham Street, Rochester


For anyone who is opposed to a downtown casino, might I suggest a little road trip followed by a nice walk. This would be to Niagara Falls, New York, and then to Niagara Falls, Ontario. The name is the only thing remotely similar about these two locations.

            Start in Niagara Falls, New York, and walk around its downtown. If you don't like casinos, don't go. Just walk around. You'll see a second-rate aquarium. You'll see a ridiculous looking balloon that as ascends for a view of the falls. You will see blight.

            Now walk across the bridge to Canada. In the years since the first casino there was built, development has boomed. There are many new attractions around the casino itself. Many new restaurants. Most importantly, many, many, many people.

            Now jump on the public-transit People Mover bus and go south to the new, $1 billion casino. There are many new large resort hotels, new access to trails, new golf courses, a concert hall, and more new restaurants. You can do all this sight-seeing without going into the casinos. You don't need to, if it's not your thing. And again, there are many, many, many people. Many people from Rochester, including myself, who would rather have stayed home if there were this much to do.

            Look across the gorge to Niagara Falls, New York, and see the balloon. Sad.

            How we can turn away someone who wants to bring in a half-billion dollars and 1300 jobs? Who has any better ideas for downtown? Who is making a better offer?

            All I hear about is "visions." I want realities. It's our turn.

            Richard Papaj, Thornwood Drive, Brighton


Rochester has the highest number of performing-arts majors per capita. That's a lot of talent. When people point with pride to the best of Rochester, they point to its Jazz Festival, Garth Fagan, the Eastman School and Eastman House, Geva, the Little, and Park Avenue. Will we be adding a casino to that list?

            Everyone in the area would like to see downtown Rochester revive and become a place of pride again. Why else would we all be fighting so hard to perfect the various projects that have recently been proposed? It may be old-fashioned to ask, but would we rather build our economic and urban development on the exploitation of human weakness or on pride in our cultural and artistic strengths?

            The other large development proposal, Renaissance Square, does build on our cultural strengths but falls prey to the illusion of a single-project quick fix. Any plan for Rochester's re-birth needs to include the community.

            Even the struggling High Falls development focuses on restaurants and pubs targeting a small percentage of the population. Clubs are a great start, but let's add space for the theaters and other performing arts that make Rochester their home. With that one added piece of the puzzle, all of these projects can engage the entire community, from children to seniors, while celebrating a Rochester full of culture and diversity. Our community has a variety of theatrical offerings, from large road shows to regional theater to experimental, ethnic, and family-audience works.

            Long-term urban development grounded in the local arts community is evidenced in many cities across the country. The 42nd Street development project took a blighted Times Square and made it shine again. Glens Falls, New York, was in danger of becoming a ghost town until a summer stock theater took over the empty Woolworth Building on the Main Street. Houston, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Greenville, South Carolina all brought their troubled cities back to life by using their own arts community as a foundation for growth.

            With the odds in our favor, Rochester should gamble on pursuing long-term development using the community of not-for-profit companies that is our strength and identity. That strategy will result in the economic gain folks seem to be chasing.

            But will the community be a player in deciding how to build back our lovely city, or will continual quick-fix projects break our bank? As for me, I'm placing my bets on the arts.

            Luane Davis Haggerty, Mayapple Lane, West Henrietta


We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

            Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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