Gambling

Casino Skim for Tony the Scum? What’s missing from this absurd puzzle? It’s the one thing that the mayor has been jonesing for since his buddy George Pataki cut a deal with the Seneca Nation of Indians: a gambling casino in downtown Buffalo. Never mind that the city’s meager slice of the profits will not pay for the additional costs that the casino will bring for extra police, social services and other “amenities.”

Never mind that the Seneca Tribal Council has gone zero for one with its Niagara Casino, which gives virtually nothing back to the nation itself (although it has greatly enriched Atlantic City hotshot Mickey Brown). Never mind that every objective study shows that a casinos in cities such as Buffalo succeed only in draining money from the local economy and that they kill businesses in the vicinity of the casino. Forget all this stuff! It’s too negative, and we’re all about being optimistic these days.

Does anyone really expect Tony Masiello to be content with a million dollar war chest and a desk job when he could become the Bugsy Seigel of Buffalo? Fuggetaboutit!

Flaum Flexes His Muscles The latest on the Casino Buffalo front is the introduction of Rochester developer David Flaum into the mix of shady characters vying to take the lead in the “Detroitization” of downtown Buffalo. We must admit that Flaum slipped under the radar in our coverage of Casino Buffalo, with all of the mobbed up Indians, Libyan human rights awards, cigarette and illegal immigrant smuggling, shadowy Malaysian financiers, crooked politics and blatantly illegal deals brokered in the name of “economic development.”

Flaum had been quietly currying favor with Gov. Pataki for the rights to develop a Catskills casino.

Looking back, Flaum’s name was brought up in connection to the Senecas as far back as 2001. Just two days before the terrorist attacks on September 11, Steve Israel, of The Times Herald Record wrote:

“Flaum may not yet have a solid deal with a tribe, but he has the location closest to New York City. Flaum is in the running to develop casinos for the Seneca Nation of western New York. The tribe cut a deal with Gov. Pataki, but it has yet to be approved by the Legislature. Location gives Flaum an edge. The Seneca connection helps.”

If you think in terms of the game “Monopoly,” giving up a Catskills casino for rights to a Buffalo casino might not appear to make sense. When you consider the governor’s demands for five casinos in the Catskills or nothing, however, Flaum might just be outfoxing his competition. In terms of business ethics, it doesn’t get much more cutthroat than the so-called “gaming industry.”

How did Flaum obtain this kind of influence in the first place? Hint: Political Contributions = Free Speech.

David Cordish: A Casino Comeback? Or “You’re Fired!” Flaum’s track record in his own hometown gives us the sense that he will fit right in with the parasitic developer culture of Buffalo. In Rochester, Mayor William A. Johnson’s 2003 State of the City address, Flaum was praised for his investment in Rochester’s High Falls entertainment district. In praising Flaum, however, Johnson brought up a name that should be very familiar to waterfront watchers and our friends in Niagara Falls.

David Cordish is a Baltimore-based developer who was given the nod to be Mayor Masiello’s developer of choice for the waterfront. His name was also connected to the Bass Pro project.

Here’s what Johnson had to say about the tandem of Flaum and Cordish.

“The presence of a national developer of the stature of Cordish in Rochester speaks volumes about the potential of High Falls and the city's ability to create a hospitable business climate. It is also a tribute to local developer David Flaum and his staff. Six years ago, David (Flaum) took on the enormous challenge of managing the centers, and successfully began to unleash the potential of the High Falls district.”

Of course, the presence of David Cordish should concern anyone with half a brain, especially anyone opposed to casino gambling in Buffalo. Last month, it was reported that Donald Trump and the Internal Revenue Service were suing Cordish for a questionable casino deal involving the Seminole Nation of Indians.

His track record in Niagara Falls has been less than stellar. Mike Hudson of The Niagara Falls Reporter summarized Cordish’s dealings in that city as follows:

“Several years ago, Cordish threatened to sue the Niagara Falls Reporter after the paper published a series of articles detailing his failure to pay property taxes on the Rainbow Centre Mall. No suit was filed and, subsequently, Cordish negotiated a settlement on the taxes. But the problem remains. Since the mall's closing in September 2001, Cordish spokesmen have announced any number of plans for its’ re-opening. But, like his threatened lawsuit against the Reporter, none of the plans ever materialized. Today, Rainbow Centre sits largely abandoned, housing only the Off-Track Betting parlor. Some of the space is rented to the Seneca Nation of Indians, who use it as a warehouse.”

Should it surprise anyone that Mayor Johnson of Rochester is now pushing for a Native American casino in Rochester? Will it be long before we have a casino in Concord or on every corner between here and there?

Flaum: Meet Your Friendly, Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Pirate Flaum has also proven to be an expert in using his political influence to “gerrymander” the state’s Empire Development Zones for his own benefit. Not that Gov. Pataki and his friends require a whole lot of convincing in that department. Recently, Flaum scored an exemption for his Canal View Office Park development in the Town of Brighton, a Rochester suburb.

City, an alternative weekly newspaper in Rochester, gave voice to people who are opposed to the Flaum formula of development:

“Critics say the program was intended to encourage businesses to move into economically depressed city neighborhoods that are designated Empire Zones. Instead, what is happening, the critics say, the boundaries of the Empire Zones are being moved to incorporate the businesses in upscale suburban office parks, bringing no benefit to the areas that need revitalization. In its April 25 statement, Metro Justice allied with the Green Party of Monroe County and the Sierra Club to denounce this use of the program.

“‘The city of Rochester has the highest child poverty rate in the state and the Governor is okaying extremely deep tax discounts for Empire Zone development in the plushest of suburban office parks and in greenfields. That bares no relation to the original intent of the Empire Zone program except that it is the exact opposite of it,’” said Monroe County Green Party Chair David Atias. “‘Our number one priority needs to be the revitalization of the areas of the state that are truly characterized by pervasive poverty, high unemployment, and economic distress.’”

Flaum, the Inaugural Ball-er On top of all this, Flaum donated $100,000 to George Bush’s inaugural ball, according to the latest edition of City. That puts him in some mighty optimistic company, doesn’t it?

So there you have it! We’re importing a suburban sprawl promoting, tax-break loving, George Bush bingin’ developer-sponge because, quite obviously, we don’t have enough native specimens of this sub-species to go around.

And the suspense continues to build: Will Flaum and his Seneca friends find refuge under the roof of the old Aud? Will Buffalo’s waterfront feature as its “anchor” a self-enclosed, taxpayer supported gambling facility? Will Flaum filch the Seneca Nation’s take on the casino? And what will be in “the skim” for Too Tall Tony?

The New Micro-Patriotism: Shut up and Wave the Flag, Buffalo! In the face of all this, Buffalonians are being directed to feel more optimistic by The Buffalo News. Their new Buffalo-boosting series a la “Talkin’Proud” asks the question, “Why not Buffalo?”

Why be optimistic, when reality paints a much different picture of the current state of affairs? Because being critical is being negative, which is not what our troops overseas would want. So we’re all buying ribbon magnets and being optimistic. Here’s how it works:

The American electorate has spoken by electing George Bush, whose principle appeal was optimism.

Being American means going along with the democratic consensus. If all of our neighbors believe in George Bush and his ideology of optimism, we here in Buffalo must also be optimistic, regardless of circumstances.

This has lead to a state of what we here at Alt Press have labeled, “Micro-patriotism.” Just as our national media has backed down from questioning the Bush Administration after CBS got bitch slapped over Bush’s National Guard Service, so our major local media outlets have adopted the position that uncritical boosterism must replace investigative journalism and logical analysis when it comes to the GOP’s self-serving plans for toxic, taxpayer supported “development” in downtown Buffalo. Even if that development includes the business equivalent of a neutron bomb: Casino Buffalo.