Niagara Gazette — Casino operators and local officials in Canada say business is already hurting and worry that if New York approves casinos upstate, both sides of the border could face economic struggles.
Competition, a weaker dollar and a more restrictive border since the Sept. 11 terror attacks have already cut into profits at Canadian casinos.
Profits from Canadian gambling facilities close to the U.S. border have dropped from $800 million to $100 million over the last decade.
New York is considering adding up to seven casinos off Indian land to go with those already operated by the Oneidas, Senecas and Mohawks. Western New York and Niagara Falls in particular, are seen as desirable destinations for some of the casinos.
Casino gambling turned Niagara Falls, Ont., into a tourist destination with luxury hotels, restaurants and other draws. But as more casinos went up, the dollar fell and the border got tighter, the city by the natural wonder saw its fortunes fall.
"We're getting beaten up on all sides," Jim Diodati, the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., told the newspaper.
The Seneca Niagara Casino on the American side has eroded Canada's advantage since it opened in 2002, using a tax-free advantage and steady profits to lure players with hotel discounts and free booze.
The Canadian loonie, which was valued at 62 cents against the dollar when the casino boom began, is now about even, meaning there's less incentive for people in the states to travel north to shop, eat, drink or gamble.
At resort casinos like the Fallsview and Casino Niagara, built in the past two decades, profits have dropped by more than $600 million. Ontario is considering shuttering Casino Niagara, and other sites, in favor of a new casino in greater Toronto.
Diodati is fighting that move on the grounds that it would jeopardize the 4,700 casino jobs in Niagara Falls and possibly the city's entire tourism economy.
"Any negative effect on the casinos sends a negative message to the businesses that set up on the periphery of the casinos in Niagara Falls," he told the newspaper. "They're woven into the fabric of the tourism community — the hotels, restaurants are all tied together."
Too many gambling sites are operating across the province, and many are in the wrong areas, gambling officials acknowledge.
Some believe New York could encounter the same problem, now that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes at least three new casinos in upstate New York and possibly another in Niagara Falls.
"The analysis and history shows that upstate New York presents a good market for casinos, including the Western New York region, and that taking advantage of this opportunity will help us bring much-needed jobs upstate," Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said.
A new report out last week has found that New York's three Indian tribes with gambling halls saw a nearly 3 percent overall drop in revenues in 2011 at the same time tribes nationwide saw a 3 percent revenue increase.Big red number $700M Drop in profits from Canadian gambling facilities near the U.S. border over the past decade.