Somewhere, somebody, dropped the ball. Big time.
That ball contained the hopes and dreams of local politicians, who believed it held a financial windfall in the form of revenue from casino gaming in New York. Starting in 2002, that shining orb would bounce in every year, and the community would supposedly benefit by allowing the Seneca Nation of Indians to bring their games to these streets.
But then the ball wobbled, and the funds stopped flowing. Gov. Cuomo and his team jumped in and brought the bounce back, or so they believed. In March 2017, the Senecas took the ball, but they didn’t go home. The casino is still there, but the revenue is gone.
So now who is going to pay?
How did the State of New York manage to enter into an agreement that would allow the Seneca Nation to establish a casino without inextricably linking it to a revenue stream? Some would argue that the link is there in the original compact. Others would say that it ends there as well, despite an agreement in 2013 to extend the terms for another 10 years.
So who dropped the ball? Was it Gov. George Pataki, who presided over the original compact? Was it Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who allowed the ambiguity to carry into the 2013 agreement? Or was it Mayor Paul Dyster and Mayor Byron Brown, who stood by while their communities were exposed to this gaping liability?
The first signs of this error are becoming apparent with Standard & Poor’s recent downgrading of Niagara Falls’ financial outlook. It will become more clear when budget time rolls around next year.
The ball has been dropped. Who is going to pick up the pieces?