By one speaker's estimate, approximately 120 people packed into a room at Henrietta Town Hall last night in response to a proposed casino in the town. And when the speaker asked how many in attendance support the casino, which would be run by the Seneca Nation of Indians, no hands were raised.
During the meeting's public comment section, speaker after speaker explained why a casino would be bad for Henrietta. It'd siphon money away from the existing businesses, its free booze would lead to more DWI's, the town would see an influx of traffic, crime would go up, and drug activity and prostitution would increase, they said.
"It really doesn't matter what their proposal is," said resident Irene Magee. "We don't want a casino here."[jump]
Earlier this week, the Seneca Gaming Corporation announced that it had purchased 32 acres of land on Clay Road. Magee and the other speakers — there were more than 20 — asked the town to make an official expression of opposition to a Seneca casino in Henrietta. And some residents brought in Dan Spitzer, an attorney with the Buffalo firm Hodgson Russ, to talk to the board about taking such an action.
Spitzer said the board gives non-binding opinions all the time, and if members were to issue a resolution opposing a Seneca casino, there isn't much threat of a lawsuit. The board isn't responsible for approving or denying the casino, he said, which is an important distinction.
"The only way this stops is politically," Spitzer said.
Town Supervisor Jack Moore told speakers that he recently met with State Senator Patrick Gallivan to discuss the casino issue, and had a separate meeting with Assembly member Harry Bronson on the matter. He also has communicated residents' concerns to the offices of Congress member Louise Slaughter and Senator Chuck Schumer.
Moore told one speaker that the approval process for the casino would take several years. And the town attorney said the proposal would need approvals from the federal secretary of the interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Changes would also have to be made to the Seneca's gaming compact with the state.
And a couple of times, Moore said he'd rather not have a casino in Henrietta.
But Moore also said he was elected to represent the entire town, and some residents — a small percentage, though — have told him they want the casino. Right now, it's the opponents that are the most vocal, in part because they are being rallied by the racino-backed No More Casinos Coalition.