Fallsview and the Casino Industry, and Why Fallsview is Proving to be a HORRIBLE Idea.
Traditionally, Niagara Falls has been known for the majestic beauty of the Falls and the amazing history that encompasses the Falls and surrounding area, which dates back to the early European explorers and indigenous tribes of the region. The historic structures from the industrial age near the Falls serve as a reminder of this history as well as the old houses and quaint streets that make up the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Fallsview Casino has not only overpowered the beauty and history of the Falls, it has started to change the atmosphere and image of Niagara Falls far beyond what anyone could have imagined. In the not too distant future, Niagara Falls, Ontario, will be primarily known as a kitschy "hot spot" for gambling, carousing, illicit sex, and a variety of other "shady activities."
"Fallsview Casino has never been about a government's quest to improve the lives of its citizens. Fallsview is an example of the powerful succumbing to the dark allure of building a casino empire." —Anonymous
An example of how Niagara Falls, Ontario, has changed for the worst after the opening of Fallsview Casino is exemplified by a massive fight that occurred outside the casino during the early hours of Sunday, October 12, 2006. According to The Buffalo News, a scuffle began inside the Dragonfly Nightclub (located within the Fallsview Casino complex) and spilled outside where it escalated into a "near riot" involving "about 200 patrons."(1)* Moreover, adult entertainment and prostitution appear to be on the increase. As of February 2006, Niagara Regional Police Services had issued permits to 2,238 people in the adult entertainment business, about 40 were operators and the rest were exotic dancers.(2) And, the numbers have been rising; as of August 2007 Niagara Regional Police reported having approximately 2,600 registered adult entertainment workers on file.(3) It should be noted that, due to Canada's murky laws on prostitution and lax enforcement, strip club dancers frequently double as prostitutes.(4) Even more unbelievable, Ontario Law allows 19 year olds to gamble, drink and patronize strip clubs.
In the long-run Fallsview Casino will be a MONEY LOSER for Ontario, here's why...
Fallsview is NOT doing anywhere near the business that Ontario had expected. In 2005 Fallsview and Casino Niagara reaped $136.2 million in net profit; however, "the bottom has now fallen out" as net profit is expected to be ONLY $32.8 million in 2008.(5) Casino industry experts have noted that this is an unbelievably low figure given that Fallsview is a Billion Dollar destination casino resort.
Fallsview Casino must meet daily operating costs and also do enough business (over time) to fully offset its original price tag of nearly a billion dollars plus the interest on any debt incurred along the way. Given the region's business environment and economic outlook for the future, these will be tall orders to fill.
Government owned Fallsview Casino is a vast and complex structure with unremarkable quality of construction and workmanship. Furthermore, the building must weather relatively harsh climatic conditions. Therefore, the lifetime maintenance costs for Fallsview will be astronomical. And, in as little as 20 years, Fallsview will require a major facelift and renovation simply to stay competitive with comparable casino resorts. The renovation could cost 1/3 to 1/2 as much as the original cost of the facility.
Since Fallsview is a destination casino resort, it must compete with other North American casino resorts. Many of the casino resorts that compete with Fallsview offer mild weather with abundant sunshine year round, something that Fallsview simply can't provide; also, Fallsview Casino will face additional regional competition when Buffalo's new casino is completed. Furthermore, new casinos will be opening in Pennsylvania and other parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, which could also have a negative impact on Fallsview Casino's bottom line.
The U.S. Dollar is at or near an historic low relative to the Canadian Dollar and is expected to remain low for generations to come. The low U.S. Dollar will continue to have a negative impact on Fallsview Casino's revenue.
Over time Fallsview will likely result in the closure of a number of businesses within the Niagara region; and, with these closures a portion of the tax base will be gone.
Ontario has a relatively high gambling addiction rate of 3.8 percent (6) while offering a plethora of taxpayer funded social services and welfare programs. Therefore, it's likely that problem gambling (associated with Fallsview Casino) will become a growing financial liability for the Province. Also, casino related crime will probably climb in the coming years, which will require an increase in spending on law enforcement. In fact, a number of studies have shown that casinos actually COST society 1.9 times more than the tax and/or public revenue they generate.(7)
A significant number of disenchanted and depressed former Fallsview Casino workers could end up on welfare and/or other forms of public assistance. And, at present one in seven Niagara, Ontario residents already lives in poverty.(8)
Increased U.S./Canadian border security measures combined with political divisions between the two countries will continue to hamper Fallsview Casino's desperate efforts to increase business.
Given that Fallsview represents a major assault on the environment and remains the only casino located next to a Great Natural Wonder of the World, public sentiment against the casino can only build over time.
Fallsview Casino is an Environmental Nightmare...
Given that the Fallsview mega-Casino complex was constructed recently (completed 2004), it's hard to believe that Canadian authorities ever approved such a wasteful, extravagant and unsightly structure (from an environmental as well as a practical perspective). At a time when most Western nations were clearly going "greener," Canada was busy touting and celebrating the grand opening of one of the most opulent and gaudy casinos in the world perched above its most recognized natural landmark. In fact, many of the gaming venues (i.e.: blackjack, roulette, craps, and poker) within Fallsview are placed along huge glass walls so that the Falls are used as a backdrop. This, no doubt, represents the ultimate sleazy exploitation of a precious natural asset in additional to posing a deadly threat to migratory birds that are often confused by large expanses of reflective glass and artificial light.(9)
Considering all of the glitzy and glamorous amenities that Fallsview provides, it represents the most conspicuous and concentrated consumption of resources imaginable. The inefficient usage of electricity and other utilities by Fallsview is enormous by any standard. Furthermore, massive amounts of food and materials are wasted by Fallsview every day (in spite of leftover food donations to homeless shelters)(10) as a by-product of the way that mega-casinos strive to create an atmosphere of extreme decadence and endless quantities of everything. Also, horrendous amounts of fuel are consumed on a continual basis while transporting food and supplies to the pretentious mega-casino.
When the Government of Ontario approved plans for the gargantuan Fallsview Casino complex and hotel district, they had to realize that the glass faced urban area would pose a deadly threat to many species of migratory birds. The Niagara River is well known as a significant North American migratory bird flyway with over 250 species of birds having been identified near the Falls area(11)(12) including a number of rare and endangered species. Because the Niagara River is a highly concentrated migratory bird flyway, tall buildings with lots of reflective glass such as Fallsview Casino and surrounding hotels can kill large numbers of birds within a single migratory season. Massive expanses of reflective glass create daylight reflections that confuse birds causing them to fly into the buildings.(13)(14) And, during darkness, artificial light also produces a lethal attraction for birds. In nearby Toronto, only 80 kilometers by air (50 miles), National Geographic documented approximately 2,000 birds that were killed in a single migratory season by buildings with reflective glass.(15) Since the Fallsview Casino district (Clifton Hill) is located in a more concentrated migratory bird area than Toronto, it can be assumed that Fallsview and surrounding hotels have created a mass bird killing zone. Hotels located in the Clifton Hill area include: Embassy Suites, Hilton, Doubletree, Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Sheraton, and Ramada Plaza.
Even the U.S., with its sometimes destructive land use practices, has shown respect for the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the environment by allowing Goat Island, New York to remain in its natural state as a park. Also, America has refrained from placing a mega-casino next to one of its Natural Wonders such as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park. Of course, the U.S. side of Niagara Falls is not without fault, as Seneca Niagara Casino was constructed in 2003. However, this casino is nowhere near the scenic Falls area and is much smaller than Fallsview Casino. And, perhaps Niagara Falls, New York would not have gone into the casino business had Ontario not built a casino FIRST with the opening of Casino Niagara in 1996.
There's a multitude of negative societal effects that casinos have been shown to dump on the communities that surround them...
Probably the most exhaustive study on the societal impacts of casinos was presented by Attorney General Curran of the U.S. State of Maryland in 1995 and re-endorsed in 2005. The report is widely available on the Internet and has been cited and used by other States and local governments ever since it was released. The results of the study are chilling. For example, within the first 15 years after casinos came to Atlantic City, New Jersey, violent crime rose by 199 per cent and larceny skyrocketed 481 per cent. Moreover, domestic violence shot up 343 per cent and prostitution exploded by 4,500 per cent (not to mention other forms of illicit sex). Also, drug possession and distribution arrests increased by 91 per cent within 7 years after casinos arrived in Atlantic City.(16) It should be noted that crime has also increased in other U.S. cities soon after the arrival of casinos. Gulfport, Mississippi, illustrates this trend. Within a year and a half after the introduction of riverboat casinos to Gulfport, virtually all crimes increased, including a 152 per cent increase in drug arrests.(17)
Problem gambling has been linked to major increases in suicide, substance abuse, divorce, bankruptcies, and financial crimes such as fraud and embezzlement...
Pathological gamblers comprise about 2 percent of the U.S. population(18); however, the gambling addiction rate in Ontario, Canada is higher than the U.S. rate. A 2001 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Responsible Gambling Council found that 3.8 percent of Ontario adults had a moderate to severe gambling problem. Furthermore, 7 percent of young Ontario adults (18 to 24 years old) were found to have a moderate to severe gambling problem.(19) Since Ontario was dealing with a high rate of gambling addiction BEFORE Fallsview Casino was constructed, it's hard to understand why the Provincial Government of Ontario went ahead with the mega-casino. One can only conclude that those politicians and bureaucrats who pushed for the casino simply didn't care about the well being of Ontario's citizens.
According to a recent Washington Times article, titled, "Life, Death in Vegas a Crapshoot" (July 6, 2007), Las Vegas (Clark County, Nevada) has "by far" the highest suicide rate in the U.S. (among populous counties) and ranks third in fatal drug overdoses.(20) Also, the State of Nevada has the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of child death by abuse.(21) High suicide rates are also found in many other casino communities; for example, in Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 per cent within two years after the first casino had opened. And, in nearby Biloxi, Mississippi, suicide attempts increased by 1,100% a year after the arrival of casinos, going from 6 to 66.(22)
Canada's Safety Council has declared addictive gambling to be "a public health crisis" that accounts for up to 360 suicides in Canada a year.(23) In November 2004, the chief coroner for the Province of Ontario stated that "suicides related to casino gambling will reach a record high in 2004 in that Province."(24) In fact, the number of gambling related suicides reported in Ontario increased from 3 in 2001 to 16 in 2004.(25)
A 1997 SMR Research Corporation study, which surveyed 298 U.S. Counties, found that personal bankruptcies were 35% higher in Counties with 5 or more gambling outlets than those without.(26) [Due to its vastness Fallsview Casino is equal to several average sized gambling outlets.] And, according to a Detroit News article, titled, "Gambling Bankruptcies Soar" (December 3, 1995), gambling related bankruptcies in metro Detroit increased by "as much as 40-fold" within a year and a half of the opening of nearby Casino Windsor, Ontario.(27)
A significant percentage of problem gamblers eventually resort to financial crimes. Among such gamblers, 41 percent were found to have committed loan fraud, 51 percent forgery, 38 percent embezzlement,(28) and 47 percent insurance fraud.(29) As of 1995 insurance fraud attributable to legalized gambling in the U.S. was estimated to cost $1.3 billion.(30)
An example of embezzled money being spent in a Niagara Falls, Ontario casino is exemplified by the story of a Hamilton, Ontario woman, who, as an administrator at McMaster Children's Hospital, stole $1,030,000 from a fund for newborns with congenital problems. According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News story, titled, "Children's Fund Blown in Casino Should be Repaid, Say Gambling Foes" (May 4, 2005), the woman blew at least $430,000 at Casino Niagara (Fallsview's sister casino). According to Fraud Detective, Gary Bishop, the casino didn't ask any questions and even assigned a hostess to her. And, even more unbelievable, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG or OLGC), the casino's owner, refused to return any of the stolen funds that were blown at the casino.(31) According to a 2004 study at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, 36 percent of Ontario gaming revenue is generated by people with gambling addictions. This statistic leaves little doubt that Fallsview Casino simply exacerbates a serious and growing problem in Ontario.(32)
Large casino "RESORTS" such as Fallsview are now targeting families by offering childcare services and a variety of youth activities. This new exposure of children to gaming has grave consequences...
As casinos proliferate, the industry is building more large, casino resorts that cater to families. According to Howard Klein, publisher of The Gaming Marketer newsletter, "[t]he industry has realized it can't sustain its revenue unless it appeals to the family." Families are now courted as the "future" of gaming; and, as a result, greater numbers of children are making up the casino visitor population.(33) The intertwining of gambling and family vacations teaches kids that gambling is an innocuous and desirable form of recreation. Although casinos attempt to keep minors away from their gambling venues, children often manage to enter age-restricted areas. Children are "seen with their noses in the machines; it's the most sickening thing I ever saw," said Arnie Wexler, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.(34)
Underage gambling has become a huge problem at virtually all casinos. According to a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) study (April 2000), in 1999 39,461 juveniles were escorted from Atlantic City casinos and 337 were found gambling in the casinos.(35) And, even more disturbing, 67 percent of students at a local high school admitted to gambling in the casinos.(36) Juvenile gambling has also been a problem at Casino Niagara. According to a CBC News article, titled, "Casino Fined for Underage Gambling, Again" (May 29, 2001), Police found a 13 year-old gambling in the casino over the Victoria Day weekend. Just two weeks prior, the casino had been fined more than $100,000 for allowing a 14 year-old to gamble.(37) And, in August 2003, Casino Niagara was fined $62,500 for permitting a 14 year-old girl to gamble. In fact, the casino security was so lax that the youth played several slot machines for over an hour before she was finally discovered by an alert coin redemption cashier.(38)
Aside from gambling, casinos generally present a highly inappropriate environment for children as the industry's trend is to create a decadent atmosphere with sexual undertones. According to a New York Times article, titled, "Atlantic City Aiming Higher as Casinos Slip" (March 19, 2007), waitresses and servers working the opulent Atlantic City casinos "show more skin and are younger and more buxom than they used to be."(39) And, it would appear that Fallsview Casino is following this trend as evidenced by a tawdry billboard advertisement (showing a scantly clad Fallsview "pinup" girl) located along upstate New York's west-bound Rt. 33 in an area infamous for accidents. Citizens for a Better Buffalo showed their outrage over the Fallsview billboard as indicated by the following news item from their website: "Perhaps is was this article [NY Times, March 19, 2007] that inspired the clever advertisers for the Fallsview Casino to ply the west-bound 33 with a pinup at one of WNY's accident black spots?" "What a blunder. No doubt the well-remunerated officers and middle managers of the casinos across the river [in Ontario] are excellent at what they do," "but it seems that their brains are addled by greed. Or maybe they know exactly what they are doing and this advertisement reflects their opinion of their neighbors across the river, eh?"(40)
For many problem gamblers, their first exposure to gambling was as a child during a family trip to a casino. Research consistently shows "higher rates of pathological gambling in teens whose parents gamble too much."(41) And, children of parents who gamble are "nearly twice as likely to be weekly or daily gamblers as children whose parents don't gamble."(42)
Casinos lead to large increases in highway collisions and drunk driving arrests...
According to a U.S. study cited by the Canada Safety Council, problem gamblers have "much higher rates of drowsy driving and falling asleep at the wheel, and ten times the collision rate." Moreover, "44 percent of them actually stayed up all night to gamble. Some stayed awake as long as 40 hours at a stretch." And, gamblers who are heavy drinkers tended to be the ones who stayed up the latest.(43)
A recent Boston Globe article, titled, "Towns Feel Effect of Conn. [Connecticut] Casinos" (July 22, 2007), reported that since casinos opened in two small Connecticut towns, there has been a "sharp increase" in drunken driving arrests. In Ledyard, a short drive from Foxwoods Resort Casino, annual drunken driving arrests have risen from 38 (in 1991) to 87 over the past year. In Montville, where Mohegan Sun Casino is located, drunken driving arrests have gone from 39 in 1997 to 113 over the past year. For the town of Norwich, which is located only 3 miles north of Mohegan Sun Casino, motor vehicle violations are up 165 percent (since 1992) along with a 57 percent increase in car accidents. And yet, the population of Norwich has not increased since 1990. And, of these 3 towns, only Montville receives a stipend from a casino; Mohegan Sun Casino sends a modest $500,000 per year to the town of Montville.(44)
Organized Crime infiltrates most casinos and their host communities, including virtually all of Ontario's casinos...
The activities of these criminal organizations include extortion, racketeering, drug distribution, loan sharking and money laundering. According to a CBC News story, titled, "Criminal Activity a Reality in Casinos, Police Say" (November 9, 2004), Ontario Provincial Police stated that, "loan sharking, money laundering and other criminal activities have become a reality inside Ontario's legalized casinos." Specifically, a murder was found to be casino related in addition to the uncovering of loan sharking rings and several cases of dealer corruption involving Ontario's four casino operations. Provincial Police also noted several cases of "casino dealers working and playing in illegal, underground gambling dens."(45)
Money laundering by drug traffickers through Canadian casinos had become such a problem by late 2003 that it caught the eye of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to a DEA report, titled, "Money Laundering in Canada," "drug traffickers intent on using casinos to launder their proceeds begin by purchasing chips or opening an account at the gambling establishment." The traffickers gamble briefly so as to limit any loses. Soon thereafter, the traffickers cash in their chips and/or withdraw funds from their casino accounts, which then appear to be legitimate winnings.(46)
Canada's Criminal Intelligence Service has identified 950 organized crime groups operating in Canada as of August 2007, which is up from 800 in 2006.(47) It was also noted that the numbers do not necessarily mean there are more crime groups in Canada, but perhaps more effective police work in identifying organized crime. However, it's clear that organized crime is not decreasing and Canada's casinos are fertile ground for criminal enterprises.
Casinos corrupt public servants and political leaders...
Casino wealth and the regulatory power of the government are a bad mix and usually lead to influence-peddling and political corruption. In many casino communities corruption cases have become commonplace. According to a U.S. GAO study (April, 2000), two Atlantic City mayors have been charged with corruption since the arrival of casinos. One of the two mayors pleaded guilty to federal corruption crimes rather than fighting the charges.(48) Also, a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General was convicted for taking part in a video poker-skimming scheme involving Louisiana casinos.(49)
Two former West Virginia State Senate Presidents were sentenced to prison for taking money from gambling interests intent on bringing casinos to the state.(50) And, a number of Arizona legislators were caught on videotape taking money from casino industry lobbyists after agreeing to vote for legislation allowing the expansion of gambling within the State.(51)
Although Ontario's casinos are Government owned, it would be unrealistic to think that there isn't perhaps some level of corruption between a few Provincial officials and the casino operators, which function as corporate entities such as Falls Management Co. (FMC), the operator of Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara. Falls Management Co. is essentially a U.S. gambling and Hotel industry conglomerate with Hyatt Hotels being the anchor. Some have questioned the legality (under Canadian Law applicable to gambling) of a U.S. conglomerate operating Provincially owned Niagara casinos.(52) At best, the business arrangement between Falls Management Co. and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (a Government entity also known as OLG or OLGC) is highly questionable, and, at worst, it represents a breach of Canadian Law. Not surprising, Ontario has taken a "hands off" approach in the way that it oversees the operations of Fallsview Casino, the "crown jewel" of Ontario's casino industry. Some of the corporate and casino level executives seem to have questionable backgrounds, which should be reason enough for concern. And yet, top management at Fallsview was granted tremendous latitude, which has often resulted in unethical and callous business practices.
Casinos (Fallsview in particular) love to claim that they offer "high-quality" jobs, which is largely a myth...
With the exception of upper-level management positions, which comprise a very small percentage of casino employment, casino work is high stress with very low job satisfaction ratings. According to a New York Times article, titled, "For Casino Employees, Pace Takes a Personal Toll" (February 14, 1989), social service organizations near Atlantic City, New Jersey were continually overwhelmed with casino workers seeking help for serious problems such as depression, drug addiction and spousal abuse. Xavier Mercando, a child-guidance counselor and former casino worker stated, "Alcohol, drugs and divorce, that's (sic) the effects of the casino lifestyle."(53) Another New York Times article, titled, "Atlantic City; Hard Labor" (September 3, 1995), showed the plight of casino workers to be worsening. By 1995 psychologists, psychotherapists, and counselors in Atlantic County were seeing so many casino workers with serious problems that they termed the disorder "casino lifestyle syndrome." Shirley L. Loughlin (an Atlantic County psychotherapist) and Dr. Ange Puig, (a Cherry Hill, New Jersey psychologist) sensed that the combination of symptoms they were seeing when treating burnt-out casino workers were unique to the casino industry and deserving of recognition as a specific syndrome. The disorder involves "persistent feelings of exhaustion, drug and alcohol abuse, alternating moods of anxiety and despair, chronic feelings of isolation and alienation, a tendency to live beyond one's means." The New York Times article goes on to note that casino workers complain that casino management is insensitive to their concerns and "are quicker to fire them than listen to them." Dr. Marvin Rose, a former clinical director of an Atlantic City mental health clinic that treated approximately 500 casino employees from 1982 to 1990, referred to Atlantic City as a "counselor's nightmare" in a 1988 issue of Professional Counselor magazine. The aforementioned New York Times piece concluded by mentioning that "despite repeated phone calls, no casino executive or spokesman would comment for this article."(54)
The current trend in the Casino industry is away from labor intensive gaming tables and towards ultra high-tech slot machines. According to a USA Today article, titled, "Slots fill niche, deal blow to table games" (January 10, 2008), "[e]ven in Las Vegas, gamblers are spending more time at slot machines and less at blackjack tables and roulette wheels." "[M]ost Americans prefer electronic games, says Andrew Smith, research director at the American Gaming Association."(55) The aforementioned trend towards automation means that the relatively high paying gaming table jobs (i.e.: dealers and pit managers) are on the DECLINE. Casinos are fast becoming high-tech gaming centers capable of stripping large numbers of customers of their money, which requires fewer employees. Based on recent information, it appears that Fallsview Casino is following this trend of providing fewer high paying and/or stable jobs.
Fallsview Casino (and, to a lesser extent, Casino Niagara) has been the center of numerous employer-employee controversies ever since it opened. Niagara Falls, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Kim Craitor and Niagara Falls, City Councillors have fielded an unusually high number of complaints from casino employees and former employees regarding insensitive and callous treatment by casino management. Employee concerns included: poor working conditions, abrupt terminations, mass layoffs with limited notice, reduced hours and replacement of genuine employees with contract workers. As one employee put it, "Full-time employees are like ducks in a shooting gallery. They want as many gone as possible. It simply means more profit."(56) By the end of May 2007 things had gotten so bad at Niagara's casinos that MPP Kim Craitor had received 300 employee complaints during the previous four months.(57) Unfortunately, Fallsview Casino has been aggressive in recruiting fresh graduates from educational institutions within the Niagara region, which is especially insidious considering the high-risk lifestyle that's often associated with casino work.
Casinos always claim that they improve local economies. In reality, casinos usually harm local economies by pulling consumer spending away from many small and mid-sized businesses...
Casinos don't create or manufacture any tangible product, instead they result in a redistribution of capital within their host communities. According to a recent interview with Calvin Kent, Vice President of Business and Economic Research at Marshall University, West Virginia, "casinos directly benefit those they do business with but they can also draw customers from other businesses."(58) Since many of the enterprises that casinos conduct business with are large suppliers located outside the community, local businesses are often left out.
Atlantic City casinos have had a devastating impact on local businesses. According to a U.S. GAO Study (April 2000), in 1977 (the year before the casinos opened) there were 242 eating and drinking establishments in Atlantic City. In 1981 that number had declined to 160, and by 1996 the number had fallen to 142.(59) Today, Atlantic City has fewer than 50 restaurants and taverns outside the casino district.(60) Casinos have also hurt other local economies. The number of retail businesses in Gilpin County, Colorado fell from 31 to 11 with two years after casinos arrived.(61) More than half of the business owners in Illinois riverboat casino towns reported either negative impact or no additional business resulting from the presence of casinos. Only 3 percent said that their business had been "helped a lot" by the casinos.(62) Casinos and gaming can have a negative impact on the economies of entire States. A University of South Dakota study estimated that retail and service businesses in South Dakota suffered a net loss of $60 million in anticipated sales the year following the introduction of gambling.(63)
Fallsview Casino is already showing signs of having a negative impact on local businesses in the Niagara Falls area. According to postings in Niagara Falls Casinos and Gaming, and Niagara Falls News, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Chamber of Commerce "revealed disappointment with casino's impact on city." The following was reported in the Niagara Falls Review newspaper: "Niagara Falls has not experienced the kind of benefits from hosting casinos the Province of Ontario promised and the Government should re-evaluate it's casino policies, a survey conducted by the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce suggests."(64) And, Niagara Falls, City Councillor, Jim Diodati complained, "the casinos are becoming a 'black hole' - a phrase associated with the problems communities face when casinos come to town and draw existing tourism business to them."(65) Moreover, Fallsview Casino appears to be conducting predatory business practices, which are threatening local restaurants. At least one restaurant owner has lost business as a result of Fallsview Casino's practice of offering free meals at its Grand Buffet to many Bus Trip and Bus Tour groups. Joe Miszk, owner of Betty's restaurant in nearby Chippawa was told by a tour company out of Florida that their buses wouldn't be stopping at his restaurant anymore because the "groups were getting free meals at Fallsview." Miszk added that his restaurant was losing "hundreds of buses this year."(66)
The annual number of tourist visits to Niagara Falls has remained relatively static since 2000. According to an article in the London Ontario Free Press (July 16, 2007), American tourism to Ontario has fallen over 34 percent since 2000 while at the same time, tourism from other countries has increased, which has largely offset the drop in U.S. visitors.(67) However, the business environment in Niagara Falls has become very competitive and Fallsview Casino has changed where the much sought after tourism dollars are spent. A disproportionate amount of these dollars are now spent within the casino or at one of the businesses located near Fallsview in the Clifton Hill casino district. Aside from the shops and cafes that surround Fallsview (a number of which, are U.S. franchises), the primary beneficiaries of Fallsview are the U.S. Corporate Hotels that adorn the mega-casino. The Provincial Government of Ontario deliberately "sold out" its own people in the region by dumping a mega-casino on the town of Niagara Falls.
The proponents of casinos always argue that casinos reduce unemployment rates. In fact, casinos have been shown to have little or no positive impact on the long-term unemployment rates of most casino towns...
According a U.S. GAO study (April 2000), communities having a casino within a 50-mile radius experienced only a one percent drop in the unemployment rate after the casino(s) had been in place for 7 years.(68) And, an Illinois study found that, out of 16 casino municipalities, only 3 saw a significant long-term increase in employment or decrease in unemployment.(69) Moreover, according to the aforementioned GAO report, which cited a University of Chicago survey on casino jobs, 6 out of 9 casino communities said that the casinos, for the most part, "provided low paying and/or part time jobs with no benefits."(70)
There are several reasons why casinos do not often result in significant long-term reductions in unemployment. The most obvious being that when businesses close as a result of the negative impact that casinos tend to have on local economies, many of the laid-off employees simply go to work for the casinos. So, a portion of new casino employment merely offsets a loss of jobs in other business sectors. However, many casino workers are "carpet baggers," who come from outside the community, and therefore, are not a factor in reducing the local unemployment rate. And, once a casino has been in operation for a number of years, many of the casino employees become disenchanted with casino work and quit or are fired. Significant numbers of unemployed or "under-employed" former casino workers can be found living in casino communities. In Niagara Falls, Ontario, there will eventually be an increase in former casino workers requiring some form of welfare or public assistance. According to an article in the Niagara Falls Review (August 29, 2007), "[o]ne in seven Niagara residents lives in poverty. One third of visits to area food banks are made by children under 18." And, "[a]lmost half of Niagara's families pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent."(71) These are very sobering statistics for a community with 2 major casinos and show that casinos do NOT result in a reduction in poverty.
Governments favoring the introduction of casinos always claim that casinos generate abundant tax and/or public revenue. This argument amounts to "fools gold" because casinos actually COST the taxpayers money...
Studies on the economic and social impacts of U.S. casinos consistently show that casinos cost society far more than the tax and/or public revenue they bring in. When the costs of casino related crime and gambling addition are added up, the costs of casinos are 1.9 times greater than the public revenue that they generate.(72) And, when casinos are built near a border between two Countries or States, the State or Province without a casino usually follows suit by approving its own casino(s) in an effort to keep gambling money from flowing out of the State or Province. Such a scenario has involved casinos along the following International and State borders (to name a few): Michigan/Ontario, Pennsylvania/West Virginia, Pennsylvania/New Jersey, and Mississippi/Louisiana. When there are completing casinos across State lines or International borders, casino revenues simply fall that much farther below the optimistic figures initially projected by Government officials. A similar scenario seems to be unfolding in the Niagara region with yet, another sizable casino going up on the U.S. side of the border in Buffalo.
Casinos often cite the "good" that they do by donating to charities and public interest projects. Nothing could be further from the truth; on a percentage basis (in terms of profits) casinos give very little back to their host communities...
Most of what U.S. casinos spend on charitable causes are monies that would have been paid out in taxes absent "creative accounting" practices and/or "sweetheart" tax-offset deals that are usually negotiated between casinos and the Government agencies that oversee them. Rather than supporting charities and public interest projects in a significant way, casinos try to project positive images by spending huge amounts of capital on advertising, public relations firms and lobbyists.
The dilapidated, run-down status of the urban area that surrounds the Atlantic City, New Jersey casino district (nearly 30 years after casinos arrived) clearly illustrates how casinos do not give back to the community.
Fallsview Casino is anything but a benevolent and charitable business. Charitable leaning organizations have found Fallsview management to be rather callous and "all business." According to a recent Niagara Falls Review article (May 7, 2007), "Heart Niagara Director Karen Stearne said that she noticed a change in February when her agency ran Fit for the Future, a day long event for Niagara's health-promotion agencies to promote their services to families. They rented the Fallsview Casino's ballroom and found the staff was 'all business,' right down to charging them a $105 fee for each electrical outlet they wanted to use. 'I thought it was the attitude of not trying to foster relationships in the community, that was sad to see' Stearne said."(73)
The Casino Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara, is reducing its financial support of the Niagara Falls International Marathon. Although the casinos supported the Marathon for many years dating back to the days of Casino Niagara before Fallsview was completed, financial support has dropped from a peak of $80,000. The casinos gave only $60,000 for the 2007 Marathon and intend to donate even less in coming years.(74) Perhaps the reason why the casinos are pulling back was a decision by race organizers in early 2007 to change the Marathon's name from "Fallsview Casino Resort International Marathon" to "Niagara Falls International Marathon." Without an advertisement for the casino included in the event's name, Fallsview seemed to lose interest in the Marathon.
Because Fallsview Casino is Government owned, the annual profits that are generated comprise public funds. It has been reported that the Government of Ontario takes about 20 percent of casino revenue depending on how profitable operations are in a given year. Unfortunately, the Provincial Government of Ontario appears to be "playing games" with Fallsview Casino revenue in an attempt to create a positive image for the casino. It's believed that Fallsview, through various programs, donates about a million dollars a year to charitable organizations within the Niagara region. Although everyone is happy to see the charities receive help, in reality these funds are the public's money. So, why aren't all casino profits sent to the Province's coffers before being doled out? The Government simply feels a need to create a caring and benevolent image for its "crown jewel," Fallsview Casino.
Fallsview Casino complicates sensitive border security issues between Canada and the U.S...
Fallsview Casino is undoubtedly more affected by border enforcement policies than most other businesses in the Niagara region. According to a Washington Post article, titled, "Fingerprint Dispute Dooms Border Site, U.S. Stance Angers Canada, Businesses" (May 24, 2007), Canada would not be willing to permit the U.S. to fingerprint individuals (using biometric scanners) who approach (proposed) U.S. border crossing facilities to be located on Canadian soil.(75) Because many gamblers would have an aversion to being fingerprinted and entered into a database, fingerprinting at the border would have a negative financial impact on Fallsview since the casino depends heavily on patrons from the U.S. Knowing that Fallsview Casino is a noteworthy source of revenue, image and pride for Canadian bureaucracies and corporations, it stands to reason that a potential loss of casino business might be an underlying reason why Canada is opposed to the U.S. plan to incorporate fingerprinting at the border. Since Fallsview was built in the post 9-11 era, one has to wonder if Canadian officials ever bothered to consider the possibility that a massive casino, located next to the border, could complicate sensitive border security issues.
The presence of Fallsview mega-Casino next to a Great Natural Wonder of the World sets a disturbing precedent that could lead to the development of more casinos aside the World's Natural Wonders and special places...
With the grand opening of Canada's Fallsview Casino Resort in 2004, Niagara Falls was the first and remains the only Great Natural Wonder to be desecrated by a casino. Since Las Vegas is running out of water and casinos are going broke in Atlantic City, the casino industry is looking to diversify and build casino "resorts" at pristine and/or noteworthy locations around the world. The longer Fallsview remains open and profitable, the greater the chances that other countries will follow Canada's lead and allow casino development near a Natural Wonder or special place.
Fallsview Casino is tarnishing the image of the Niagara Falls and Canada at large...
For hundreds of years Niagara Falls has been considered one of the Great Wonders of the World and has always ranked high on anyone's list. However, Niagara Falls appears to be fading as one of the World's Wonders according to the results of a recently completed Internet poll on the Wonder's of the World. Unfortunately, Niagara Falls scored very low and was scarcely mentioned. This was a big disappointment to many Canadians and some have speculated that Ontario's decision to place Fallsview mega-Casino next to the Falls was a factor in the low ranking.
American travel journalists have also commented on the ugliness of Fallsview and questioned the wisdom building a mega-casino next to the Falls. A Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, titled, "Take a hint from falls: Casinos can crowd Nature" (May 6, 2007), questioned the wisdom of mixing hotel and casino development with a majestic natural asset. "The falls still work. Immense volumes of water tumbling over one of nature's best-located edges make a grand sight and sound." "But the forces of development are great too." "And how much improvement occurs---well, you're entitled to your own opinion. It's a good thing the Canadians of a century ago reserved a few acres of public park next to the falls. Or you can be sure that hotels, eateries and now gambling dens would crowd to the rim."(76) Dennis McCann of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had especially harsh words reserved for Fallsview Casino in a travel article, titled, "Beauty, romance, history and adventure flow through Niagara Falls" (May 15, 2005), "'C-A-S-I-N-O' was what we saw, written in giant red letters down the side of the city's new Fallsview Casino, a gleaming tower of temptation that rises high on the bluff that otherwise overlooks Niagara Falls." "[B]ut it was hard to properly behold some of the most beautiful natural features of this continent or any other with that giant tower standing smack in the way, like some developer's brazen middle finger. And the City is proud of it!" "Oh, please. Why does man always have to monkey with the marvelous?"(77)
Fortunately, the majestic Falls will far outlast Fallsview Casino...
When a truly horrible idea somehow gets approved and implemented, over the long-haul it becomes increasingly difficult to "spin" things into something that seems positive, and the situation eventually becomes untenable. Such a scenario will eventually befall (no pun intended) Fallsview Casino. And, when the pretentious mega-casino complex is finally razed by a Provincial Government that has come to its senses, perhaps the early explorers, who were so moved when they first laid eyes on the majestic Falls, will be looking down from above with smiles and nods of approval.
*Note: A complete listing of footnotes can be found in the References / Endnotes section.