Editor’s note: This is the second of two Another Voice articles on the proposed expansion of casino gambling in New York State.
By Colleen DiPirro
Over the last 20 years, Buffalo has lost thousands of jobs and seen industry depart as our manufacturing base has continued to erode and we continue to feel the brunt of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate in the Buffalo Niagara region is over 8 percent, and in Buffalo proper, it has consistently hovered over 10 percent over the last few years. In addition to this, we have had to deal with stagnant wages and a constantly shrinking economy.
We’ve heard big promises before, but this is not just a fantasy. On Tuesday, we have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that won’t just create new good-paying jobs, but it will bring much-needed tax revenue to our region without raising property, sales or income taxes one penny. This ballot initiative is Proposal 1, a proposal that would expand casino sites in New York State.
We’ve had casinos in Buffalo for many years, but their agreements with the counties have always been in flux. If we vote for Proposal 1, all of that will come to an end, and casino operators will remit a consistent source of revenue for years to come. The amounts coming to our region won’t be insignificant, either. According to the state Division of Budget, Erie County will see an increase in revenues of more than $21 million a year if the proposal passes.
A yes on Proposal 1 means we’ll have the opportunity to add hundreds of good-paying construction jobs to New York’s economy for casino expansion construction. And in the long run, expanded gambling will add hundreds more permanent, good-paying jobs to our economy as well. This is why Proposal 1 has the support of both the business community and labor unions and has the support of Democrats and Republicans all over our state. It is the rare win-win for all New York businesses, taxpayers and working families.
We have a unique opportunity to bolster our regional economy. It’s also a great opportunity for our state, an opportunity that we are currently losing out on to our neighbors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Canada who already have expanded gambling, and whose public coffers are filled every year by the New Yorkers who gamble in their establishments.
But it’s more than just money to local and state governments that makes this proposal so appealing. Proposal 1 is going to lift our state, reduce unemployment and make it even more attractive for investment and talent.
By voting Yes on Proposal 1 on Tuesday, we won’t fix all our problems, but we do have the opportunity to help turn the ship in the right direction. Buffalo can’t afford to say no to that.
Colleen DiPirro is president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.