A press release dated Feb. 24 made the group's previously ambiguous position on “Casino Buffalo” clear. “The Buffalo Niagara Partnership will not falter in its opposition to a Seneca casino in downtown Buffalo."

Joel Rose, chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County, praised the Partnership's stand in an e-mail.

“How many times have we asked, rhetorically, where is the leadership from the business community on the casino issue? Well, better late than never. This is a very welcome development,” Rose said.

The Partnership, which the Buffalo Club's elite Group of Eighteen dominates, also cast doubts on whether a suburban site for the casino would be in the best interests of the local business community. It stated, “Some alternative sites in Erie County have been mentioned for the Seneca casino, but at first blush, these also fail to meet the necessary criteria for Partnership support, including their inability to attract out-of-town dollars to the region, or [to] serve as a springboard for other development."

The press release did leave the door open by adding that, “We will, however, give any site additional review should a specific plan for it emerge.”

Assemblymember Sam Hoyt, a long-time foe of casino gambling in Buffalo, also praised the Partnership's decision. The press release that his office issued pointed to potential problems if the Senecas succeed in locating a new casino here.

He pointed out that the Seneca gaming compact, "...only requires the Senecas to pay the state a percentage of profits from slot machines and video lottery terminals, but only as long as they have an exclusive franchise on those devices. If they are half as good business people come May when VLTs open at Buffalo Raceway, as they have been all along, I expect a Buffalo casino to open with VLTs. If so, the Senecas can avoid any revenue sharing at all."

This fact raises serious questions about Mayor Anthony Masiello's motivations for pursuing a Seneca casino in Buffalo. The mayor, who appeared on a radio call-in show on WBEN, stumbled when one caller asked him to defend the Seneca Tribal Council's links to organized crime. He said that he didn't want to judge the whole group based on a couple of individuals, despite the fact that Arthur “Sugar” Montour, who has publicly acknowledged his criminal past on Canadian national television, was in charge of negotiating the Seneca Gaming Compact with Governor George Pataki.

Despite mounting opposition to casinos as a panacea to both state budget deficits and anemic economic development, Pataki continued his push to amend the state constitution to allow for the legalization of state-sponsored casinos. Many Senecas who were opposed to the Seneca Gaming Compact with Pataki now see this as the ultimate proof of the governor's betrayal and of the Seneca Tribal Council's self-serving ends.

In addition to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, casino opponents acquired another powerful ally as the state's conference of Roman Catholic Bishops also came out against the governor's proposed gambling amendment.

Despite mounting opposition to his “Casinos for Kids” scheme to fund public education in New York State, the governor and his ally in the New York State Senate, Joe Bruno, show no signs of abandoning their proposal. As the Republican National Convention comes to New York City, along with big money and political clout backing the governor, casino opponents and advocates alike can expect a casino showdown – winner take all.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the business organization that succeeded the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, gave some area anti-casino activists a pleasant surprise by making a formal announcement of opposition to a downtown casino.