Poll: New Yorkers Support Seneca Gaming over Commercial Companies

Gale Courey Toensing
12/8/11

The Seneca Nation of Indians released a new poll indicating that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers in the western part of the state support the Nation’s exclusive operation of gaming in the area and only a small minority support a constitutional amendment that would allow casinos all over the state.

The poll, which was commissioned by the Nation and conducted by a New York City firm, was released on Tuesday, December 6, at a press conference at the Seneca Niagara Casino with Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter, council members, Seneca Gaming Corp., board members, executives and employees present.

Porter said the Nation was “gratified” by the poll results. “(They) positively show the views of our Western New York neighbors on the quality, impact and importance of our businesses for them and the region’s economy,” Porter said. “But what really stands out is that our neighbors are overwhelmingly loyal to our rights and fully recognize that the work we undertook in the last decade reinvests in the region, pays large benefits to local communities and supports thousands of local jobs, hundreds of vendors and has a dynamic economic multiplier effect.”

On the same day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan “to create jobs and grow the economy” through tax reforms, infrastructure funding, and support for an amendment to the state Constitution that will allow commercial gaming throughout the state. The push for a constitutional amendment is driven by the New York Gaming Association, which is lobbying for an amendment to allow the state’s nine racetracks to expand from video lottery terminals to full casinos with slot machines, poker and other table games.

The Seneca poll included 1,000 people in 14 counties in Western New York with a concentration in Erie and Monroe counties. The poll was conducted from Nov. 9 through Nov. 16 and had a margin error of 3.2 percent. The Nation released the background and demographic information for the poll.

The poll’s major finding showed 84 percent of the respondents support the continued operation of the Seneca Nation’s three gaming facilities in its compact-guaranteed exclusivity zone in the western part of the state. Only 10 percent of the respondents support a constitutional amendment to allow statewide gaming. If casinos were to open in some other parts of the state, 62.2 percent prefer that they are run by a New York Indian nation, as opposed to 9.9 percent who favored a Las Vegas commercial company and 2 percent who favored a Malaysian-based commercial company.

More than 57 percent said they were not aware of the state law prohibiting competing casinos in the Seneca Nation’s exclusivity zone. The same percentage didn’t know that the Nation has paid $476 million to the state for that exclusivity right. Once they were made aware of the exclusivity provision, 71 percent said that other casinos should not be permitted to operate in the area in the future.

Only 14 percent said they were aware that the Seneca Nation employs 6,000 Western New York residents, more than half of them non-Indians. More than 75 percent favored the Nation’s continuous growth through future economic development.

The poll also found that:

  • 76 percent of participants thought the Seneca Nation would do a better job of running casinos than the state of New York.
  • 63.2 percent are oppose a constitutional amendment to expand gaming
  • 74.3 percent are aware that the state already supports and markets casino-like racetracks or “racinos” in the state.
  • 68 percent of total respondents said Seneca Nation businesses are valuable to Western New York, including 41 percent  who said the Nation’s business are “very valuable.”
  • 76 percent view the Nation’s influence as positive, including 31 percent viewing it as “very positive” and 45 percent as “somewhat positive.”
  • 88 percent were aware that the Seneca Nation has three casinos in the Western New York area, but only 39 percent of the respondents visited one in the last year.

The poll was conducted for Eric Mower and Associates by the pollster Central Marketing. Its previous clients include a major state agency; diocesan schools in a New York city; a major upstate manufacturer; a leading upstate hospital system; a statewide bank; an upstate utility and an influential trade alliance, among others, the Nation said in a press release. Neither the Seneca Nation nor EMA, a statewide advertising and public relations agency, was mentioned as survey sponsors, the Nation said.

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