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By Frank Parlato Jr.

We aren't quite as stupid -- we Americans -- as the Seneca leadership thinks we are.

Leaders from the Sovereign Seneca Nation of Indians released the results of a poll last week they claim suggests area residents support Seneca's efforts to maintain exclusive rights to casino-style gaming in Western New York.

In reality, it was not a poll, but a push poll, filled with leading questions -- meant to lead people to respond to get the results Seneca wanted.

In announcing the findings of their crooked-up poll, tribal leaders apparently wanted to persuade state officials and the public to let Seneca keep their exclusive rights to gaming operations in the region in lieu of letting regular everyday Americans have the same opportunity.

Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter said the results of the poll found nearly two-thirds of Western New Yorkers surveyed opposed a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling for Americans in New York.

"Our neighbors know what we know," the self-serving Seneca leader said, "that our contributions to this area are strong, are dominant, are successful, and if our nation is not doing (exclusive gambling) everyone is going to be hurt," Porter said.

The poll, paid for by Seneca and conducted by a New York City firm specializing in propaganda called Central Marketing, called 1,000 respondents from 14 counties in Western New York (but interestingly, almost excluded Niagara County residents, where the Seneca Niagara Casino is located) in mid-November and plied them with questions clearly meant to draw out the answers they wanted to hear.

The Niagara Falls Reporter got a hold of the crooked poll, perhaps much to the chagrin of Seneca leaders, who did not want the questions broadcast, just the results.

The results of their push poll showed 10 percent of Western New Yorkers favor an amendment to allow statewide gaming, while 63 percent said they want only people born of Seneca blood to be allowed to operate and profit from gambling.

But these skewed responses -- that Americans want preferences for Seneca over themselves and their children -- were achieved only after respondents were told that these new non-Seneca casinos would be "on every corner" and possibly operated by Malaysians, well known to operate criminal gaming operations overseas.

Respondents were also told a series of facts disguised as questions to show how well Seneca was doing in the area before they were asked about Seneca performance and the public's desire to keep the status quo.

"It shows overwhelming support for (Seneca-exclusive) gaming operations. Eighty-four percent of those polled show continued support for Seneca casinos in our exclusivity zone," Porter said. "Our profits do not go to the owners or shareholders of Las Vegas or Malaysian casinos. They stay right here in Western New York."

The Seneca poll was clearly meant as a device to head off Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who suggested last week that statewide legalization of gaming should be pursued to help spur economic development, with facilities operated by private-sector, non-Indian operators.

In other words, the racist world of New York gambling, where only Indians can make a fortune, might come to end.

A state constitutional amendment is needed to allow Americans to operate casinos in New York.

Naturally, Seneca leaders are upset. Yet Seneca is not known for sharing with Americans. Look around the area surrounding the casino and you will see vacant, blighted buildings falling into ruin as crime rises, and people and businesses move out. There has not been one new major business startup around the boundaries of the casino, and more than a dozen businesses have closed.

The city of Niagara Falls has not seen the economic spin-off promised. Only Seneca has grown wealthy since the casino opened in 2003.

Contrarily, Las Vegas is largely successful because anyone -- if they have the ability, the money and the guts, regardless of race -- can operate a casino, and the whole city has grown instead of only one ethnic group.

The Seneca poll claimed 84 percent "favored continued operation of Seneca Nation gaming in its Western New York exclusivity zone," which their Seneca news release says is "superior to wide-open, Las Vegas- or Malaysian-owned commercial casinos."

Here are some of the leading questions in the 31-question Seneca poll.

Did you know Seneca Nation operations total $1.1 billion a year?

Did you know Seneca Nation employs 6,000 Western New Yorkers, more than half of whom are non-Indians?

Did you know Seneca Nation is Western New York's sixth-largest employer, ahead of M&T and HSBC banks?

Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 equals "Not at all valuable," and 5 equals "Very valuable," please rate how valuable Seneca Nation businesses are to Western New York. (Not surprisingly, after these lead-up questions, 66.6 percent said Seneca businesses are valuable.)

In general, how do you view the Seneca Nation's influence on Western New York's economy?

Do you think the Seneca Nation economy helps Western New York's economy? (Seventy-seven percent said yes.)

Would you favor the continuous growth of the Seneca Nation economy through future development?

Are you aware of the fact that some Albany leaders want to legalize commercial casino gambling statewide?

Next came the granddaddy of all leading questions:

How likely are you to favor such a wholesale approval of "casinos on every corner"? (Now, of course, no one suggested a casino on every corner.)

Did you know that the Seneca Nation has paid $476 million to the state for the right to operate (their three) casinos?

Given that New York state promised the Seneca Nation exclusivity, should other casinos be permitted in Western New York?

If new casinos were to open in some areas of New York state, do you prefer a New York Indian nation to open them or a Las Vegas- or Malaysia-based commercial company? (Why should the choices be only Seneca, Las Vegas- or Malaysia-owned companies? Why not include local New York entrepreneurs?)

Do you favor continued operation of Seneca Nation gaming, and payments from it to the state, or do you prefer Las Vegas-type gaming statewide? (That's not really an either/or question. There could be state-regulated gaming without necessarily having it Las Vegas-style, where any drugstore can have slots.)

I don't know about you, but those questions seem to me like pretty leading questions.

Suppose I reword the questions and we do the poll again. Do you think the results would be different?

Are you aware of the fact that because of their ethnicity, Seneca has the exclusive right to operate casinos in Western New York?

Are you aware that Seneca can open any business on the 50 acres of land granted them in Niagara Falls and pay no property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes or state income taxes?

Are you aware of the fact that Seneca Nation gaming and state and local tax-free entertainment operations earn for them $1.1 billion a year, netting certain people in the tribe more than $1 million per day?

Did you know that the host city, Niagara Falls, remains one of the poorest cities in America, as it struggles "on every corner" to keep libraries open, roads paved and children from leaving Western New York?

Do you think Americans should have the same legal rights in New York as Seneca?

Do you think Americans could run casinos as well as people who are born Seneca?

Did you know the Seneca Nation employs 6,000 Western New Yorkers, more than half of whom are non-Indians, and that most work for Seneca at near-minimum wage and at part-time jobs?

Did you know that -- according to their employment manual, and by Seneca law -- a person born a Seneca may replace an American employee at any time if a Seneca wants the job?

Did you know the Seneca Nation, with their tax-free status, has become Western New York's sixth-largest employer, overtaking longtime, tax-paying companies like M&T and HSBC banks?

Do you like the fact that so many proud Americans have to work for a foreign, or as they call it, a Sovereign Nation, instead of American-owned companies?

Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 equals "Not at all harmful," and 5 equals "Very harmful," please rate how harmful Seneca Nation tax-free businesses are to Western New York.

Judging from "every corner" surrounding the Seneca Niagara Casino, do you think Seneca Nation reinvests its profits in Western New York?

Did you know that the Sovereign Seneca Nation has not paid their agreed-upon slot machine revenue to Albany in two years, withholding more than $330 million in revenue-sharing payments since 2009; $53.1 million of which is due to Niagara Falls?

Do you favor continued exclusive operation of Seneca Nation tax-free gaming, or do you prefer to allow American-owned gaming that gives Americans equal rights to start a casino like they do in Las Vegas?

Do you think we should allow the people of the Sovereign Seneca Nation to have more rights than our own children?

Should Seneca have legal superiority over Americans?

The people of New York should ignore the Seneca self-serving survey.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 13, 2011