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THE HIDDEN COSTS OF CASINOS

Maura J. Casey , Special to the Buffalo News, October 19, 2003

[Ed. Note]

This article is a good discussion of the casino issue. However, we believe that it leaves the jobs issue largely unexplored. For additional info on the question of jobs and economics, see casinos and jobs

10/31/03 - John Bartley,
Webmaster

A casino brings with it impacts that go far beyond glitz, glamour, tax revenue and jobs. Those are simple to see. And tax revenue and jobs, especially, are why so many politicians are willing to bet the future on the roll of the dice. But all gambling casinos also bring with them negative side effects that are not as easily measured as jobs gained, yet are just as real as the air pollution from Bethlehem Steel I used to see and smell 30 years ago when crossing the Father Baker Bridge.

The people of Buffalo or Cheektowaga can expect to gain jobs with the opening of any casino. Connecticut, where I live, gained 22,000 jobs since two Indian casinos in New London County opened in the last 11 years. That can't be minimized. But neither can other impacts. Based on six months in 2001 I spent researching the impact of gambling, residents can also expect the following:

Tribal casinos add more complications to the mix. Indian tribes are sovereign nations. Indian casinos usually are located on land not subject to taxes. Unions don't exist at most Indian casinos, and most legal disputes are settled in tribal courts. If the federal government takes land into trust for an Indian tribe, that tribe can use it for virtually anything, regardless of local zoning or neighborhood opposition.

Effects on region

None of these factors is simple to determine. The social impact will be downplayed by gambling interests and the legion of politicians snuggling happily in their pockets. And those who take the libertarian viewpoint - that some people will become addicted to gambling whether or not a casino comes to town - will be less troubled by the social impact as well.

But all these factors must be weighed for the citizens of greater Buffalo to rationally respond.

At the root of this is a simple question: What kind of region do residents want the area to be? What kind of future do you want for your children? The answers to these questions will differ with each individual.

It's simple to assess the positive results of bringing in casinos. It is not a simple matter at all to measure the cost of loss of productivity, child neglect, bankruptcy, divorce, addiction, suicide and the myriad social consequences that casino gambling can bring with it to a greater or lesser degree.

Casino studies

In pondering these issues, a word about the research.

Gambling interests commission most casino studies, so most such research ignores negative impacts. State and federal governments can pay for such empirical research, but they have little vested interest in offending the political juggernaut that is the gambling industry. Comparatively few government-sponsored studies have been done. That's why questions remain that shouldn't be issues anymore.

We understand so much about drug and alcohol addiction because our government pays millions every year for the answers. Not so for gambling. The federal government has measured the impact of gambling just twice in the last 30 years - once in 1975 and once in 1997, when the National Gambling Impact Study Commission was formed.

That commission had an ambitious agenda but limited time and money. It allocated about $2 million and less than a year to measure the social impact of the spread of gambling, contracting with the National Opinion Research Center to do so. The center measured some factors, but cautioned that it could not measure the impact of gambling on neglect,divorce, bankruptcy and a laundry list of social problems. So we still have limited answers to the question of impact.

But the center did discover several striking things, notably that that the rate of pathological gambling - the addiction with the most negative consequences - doubles within 50 miles of a gambling casino.

Pathological gamblers make up about 1 percent of the population. Problem gamblers, those whose gambling addiction is less severe but nonetheless has a significant negative impact on their lives, are about 3 percent of the population.

During the course of my reporting I read dozens of studies on gambling. No research is perfect, and I made a conscious effort to avoid the extremists on both sides. Here are some well-designed, interesting studies I came across.

Overall social impact

The best study I came across on social impact was commissioned by Wisconsin in the late 1990s. The state wanted to measure the amount of money it spent on mopping up social ills created by gambling addiction. The conclusions were that, for every dollar of gambling revenue the state garnered, it spent 42 cents on addressing the social cost created by pathological or problem gamblers.

Jobs

Several studies have examined whether or not casinos in very poor cities have made a difference. Although some argued that the prosperity of the 1990s was the biggest contributing factor, once-impoverished Biloxi, Miss., turned around after the advent of casinos, as did Gary, Ind., which lost 70,000 steel jobs in a 15-year period.

A study done by Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut claimed that the casino had spurred the creation of an additional 1.1 jobs for each of the 13,000 jobs it created in Connecticut.

Debt

Dr. Robert Ladouceur, a Canadian researcher, found in 1994 that 28 percent of the pathological gamblers attending Gamblers Anonymous said that they had either filed for bankruptcy or had reported debts of $75,000 to $150,000.

In Connecticut, between 1999 and 2000, the average annual income of the 212 clients enrolled in the compulsive treatment program was $32,000. But the average amount of debts due to gambling that each client had accrued amounted to $71,000.

Traffic

Concerned about the possibility of a casino opening in Bridgeport, Conn., the South Western Regional Planning Agency in Connecticut commissioned a study on its potential impact on traffic. Business interests were concerned because the area, about an hour outside New York City on congested Interstate 95, already is a traffic nightmare.

The study confirmed their worst fears: a casino would have the same impact on traffic as six to 10 shopping malls, researchers said.

Traffic in Connecticut near Foxwoods Resort Casino increased 400 percent since the casino opened, according to figures compiled by local towns. Emergency services by local towns tripled.

Suicide

One in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide, according to research done by the National Conference on Problem Gambling, and a survey of 400 members of Gamblers Anonymous found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide.

Coroners in Quebec, concerned about suicides linked to the proliferation of gambling in the province, began to keep careful track in 1999. They found over three years that suicides directly linked to gambling ranged from 15 to 33 a year.

Drunken driving

In October of 2000, the Wall Street Journal published a story linking dramatic regional increases in drunken driving to casinos' habit of offering free alcoholic drinks.

In Connecticut, when local state police estimated drunken driving arrests went up 30 percent in 2001, they asked for a meeting of casino management to ensure that they wouldn't hesitate to stop serving people who became too inebriated.

The good and bad

My own experience of living and working within one-half hour of a gambling casino has been mixed. There have been undeniable benefits: Big-time entertainment, excellent restaurants, a Women's NBA basketball team, arena football, and needed jobs when the area defense industry declined.

Casinos offer their employees excellent health benefits, free prescription drug coverage, and on-site day care. But the casino jobs are non-union. They pay, on average, $30,000 - half what the manufacturing jobs pay in a state that is one of the most expensive in the nation in which to live.

And the anecdotal evidence of people getting in trouble is legion. Soon after Foxwoods opened, a friend of mine gambled away the entire $5,000 he had saved for his daughter's college tuition. He and his wife ended up moving out of state to get away from the temptation of living near a casino.

In the last decade, public officials of five area towns, several of them tax collectors, all of them respected women, have been charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the towns that they spent at the casinos.

Business owners complain that they can't compete for employees because of the casinos. Turnover is high. And the owner of one restaurant that I frequent told me that the casino buffets and restaurants have cut into his business by 30 percent.

Bottom line: This is a complicated issue with many, many different winners and losers. Don't let anyone, especially politicians, fool you into thinking gambling offers easy answers. There's nothing simple about opening the door to casinos.

MAURA J. CASEY is associate editorial page editor of the Day, a newspaper in New London, Conn. She grew up on Buffalo's West Side and graduated from Holy Angels Academy and Buffalo State College. She can be reached by e-mail at m.casey@theday.com.

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CASINO DEAL PRINIPAL ADMITS TIES TO ORGANIZED CRIME

MICHAEL BEEBE, Buffalo News, October 15, 2003

Scott Snyder, the former ruling party chairman of the Seneca Nation of Indians, has admitted his role in the smuggling of $10 million worth of phony Marlboro cigarettes from China and faces more than three years in federal prison. Snyder, 41, of Irving, the son of businessman and former Seneca President Barry Snyder Sr., pleaded guilty with five co-defendants earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

"He admitted to agreeing with others to import cigarettes bearing the Marlboro trademark when he knew they were not real Marlboro cigarettes," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Frisch said Tuesday of Snyder's plea.

Snyder and two local partners, Donald Deland, 43, of Irving, and Timothy Farnham, 38, of Fredonia, admitted the scheme that imported five shipping cartons of phony Marlboros and Marlboro Lights for sale at their Double D Smokeshop on the Cattaraugus Reservation, the Iroquois Tobacco Co., and the Smokemcheap.com Web site.

Snyder and Deland face prison terms of between 37 and 46 months when they return to Brooklyn for sentencing on Jan. 30; Farnham faces a potential 30 to 37 months in prison.

Following their arrests in February, Seneca President Rickey L. Armstrong Sr. barred Deland and Farnham, who are not Senecas, from Seneca lands.

Snyder, a native Seneca, has been free on bail since his arrest.

Snyder's father, Barry Sr., was one of the first Senecas to sell tax-free gasoline and cigarettes on the reservation, and Scott Snyder and his brother Barry Jr. have continued in the business.

"Scott truly regrets what he's done to his family and to the Seneca Nation, of which he is a proud member," defense lawyer Barry N. Covert said of the plea.

During the last Seneca election, Scott Snyder served as chairman of the ruling Seneca Party on the Cattaraugus Reservation and helped get casino gambling approved in a Seneca referendum.

Snyder, Deland and Farnham were charged along with two brothers, Simon and Michael Moshel of Forest Hills, and Robert Berardelli of Brooklyn, after federal agents discovered the smuggling operation in the New Jersey ports in November 2000. The Moshel brothers also pleaded guilty.

After an informant tipped agents to the scheme, an undercover U.S. Customs agent posed as the owner of a Brooklyn trucking company to help transport the contraband. Two of the original group were then arrested and cooperated with authorities.

As a result, prosecutors said, federal agents were able to make more than 200 videotapes of Snyder and the others picking up cigarettes on the docks and transporting them to Western New York in tractor-trailers.

In all, 35 million phony cigarettes valued at $10 million, packed in boxes labeled as kitchenware, were smuggled from China. Authorities estimated that $1 million in taxes was avoided.

Agents said Snyder, already selling cigarettes free of New York State taxes because the Senecas enjoy sovereign status, was able to make even more money by buying phony Marlboros from China at reduced rates and avoiding federal tax.

Snyder's Smokemcheap Web site, which bills itself as "America's Number One Online Discount Cigarette Store," is still in operation.

e-mail: mbeebe@buffnews.com

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GAMBLING CONFERENCE TOUTS COUNSELING

James M. Odato, timesunion.com, September 26, 2003

Relatively little public money goes to help families struggling with the disease of compulsive betting, but when counselors are available the results can be remarkable, said speakers at the New York Council on Problem Gambling's 5th Annual Conference Thursday.

Various speakers described the suicides, the costs to health care systems and governments and the sparsity of public dollars to deal with crises created by betting. A Selkirk woman told of the struggle her husband's gambling addiction caused her family.

"When I first discovered I had a problem, I thought I was all alone," said the woman, a registered nurse. The Times Union chose not to use her name to protect her privacy. She was identified with the fictitious name "Angie" in a Times Union special report, "Gambling with Lives," in January.

"I would have fallen apart without the help," she said.

Keynote speaker Joanna Franklin, who trains people to deal with problem gamblers, said the issue of whether states should require insurance policies to cover such mental problems is a nationwide issue. Franklin said states end up paying the health care costs because insurers won't cover full treatments for people with mental health or substance abuse diagnoses.

William Gorman, commissioner of New York's Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services, told the conference that 30 years as a counselor showed him the hardships of gambling addiction. "It is a life-threatening disease," he said.

Several dozen people at the conference advocated for passage of Timothy's Law, named after a Rotterdam boy who killed himself after his parents couldn't get insurance companies to keep paying for his mental health treatments.

The Assembly overwhelmingly passed it this year, but it was not brought to a vote in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, says he opposes the law because it would raise costs for insurers, make insurance less affordable for employers and leave more New Yorkers uninsured.

Bruno's office was unable to provide the Senate's economic impact study. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said the cost would be $4 to $5 more per policy.

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ANTI-CASINO GROUPS JOIN IN RALLY

Sharon Linstedt, Buffalo News, September 21, 2003    (Photo by Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)
PROTEST THE POLITICAL GAMBLING MACHINE

As the Seneca Nation of Indians moves closer to announcing detailed plans for an Erie County casino, anti-gambling forces are raising their voices in opposition to local casino development. Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County held a rally at Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park on Saturday afternoon to remind elected officials and community leaders that most county residents oppose gambling.

[see picture album]

Mary Bartley, secretary of the anti-casino organization, said an Erie County casino is not a "done deal" if area residents fight it.

"It's time for the powers that be to pay attention to what the people want, and we don't want a casino," Bartley said.

The group pointed to results of a June 2003 Buffalo News poll that found 54 percent of Erie County residents are anti-casino, while 63 percent of Buffalo residents are against casino development.


I say to Mr. Volker: We don't want this in our neighborhood either.

- to Mr. Tokasz: We don't want this near our families either.

- to the Buffalo News: We don't want this near our schools either.

Jessie Schnell, speaking at the Rally of 9/20

"Those numbers haven't changed. In fact, now that it's getting closer to being a reality, more people are realizing they could end up with a casino in their back yard and are speaking out," Bartley said.

She pointed to the hundreds of Cheektowaga and Lancaster residents who have attended community meetings and rallied against a casino since the Senecas announced they are reviewing three sites in Cheektowaga.

Bartley said the group particularly hopes to get the attention of Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak, County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Gov. George E. Pataki.

Supporters of the citizens anti-gambling group were joined during the Saturday rally by members of the Network of Religious Communities. The event drew about 100 anti-casino protesters.

The Seneca Nation was scheduled to hold a Tribal Council meeting Saturday. Sources said the meeting focused on the state's plans to enforce sales tax collections on cigarette sales to non-Senecas, not the casino issue.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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ANTI-CASINO ACTIVIST URGES OPPOSITION

Anthony Cardinale, Buffalo News, September 18, 2003

Local opponents of casino gambling got an uplifting pep talk Wednesday evening from a Methodist minister who has spent the past 12 years on the road, fighting casinos. About 50 activists in the Buffalo Museum of Science auditorium heard some good news from the Rev. Tom Grey of Chicago, who was named "Prophet of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune.

"I've never believed in "done deals,' " said Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. "This is the third gambling wave in U.S. history. It has been a boom-to-bust cycle. Gambling is having an increasingly difficult time coming on this time."

Grey rattled off victories of casino foes during 2003:

Proposals for new casinos have been turned back in Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Hawaii. A Native American casino is on the November ballot in Maine.

Attempts to expand existing casinos have been defeated in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, and none will be on the ballots.

Lotteries have been rejected in Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Tennessee, and none will be voted on in November.

Slot machines at racetracks have been turned down in 20 states, while three states will vote on them in November.

"It's really a fight of our people against their money and muscle," said Grey, who then applauded the efforts of his hosts, led by Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County.

"Your people have worked and gotten public opinion turned around," he said, "so that 63 percent oppose casino gambling in Erie County. You've begun to win this battle."

More and more political leaders are realizing that casino gambling hasn't delivered on its promises, Grey said, from Atlantic City, N.J., to Las Vegas, Nev.

"Atlantic City has taken 25 years to realize any development," he said. "If gambling were a great economic engine, Nevada would be the mecca where gambling did it."

Webmaster's Note

The Nevada budget deficit cited here was misquoted by the News: It is actually
$870 million.

CACGEC Webmaster

But Nevada is facing an $87 million deficit, Grey said, and the state ranks first in the nation in suicides per capita, divorces, high school dropouts, gambling addiction and abuse of women by men. Nevada ranks 50th, he added, in voter participation.

"People who never committed crimes before are now incarcerated because of crimes related to their gambling addiction," Grey said. "Why do you suppose your governor and your mayor have been playing hide and seek with the bodies?"

Grey accused Gov. George E. Pataki of violating the state Constitution by working with Native American tribes to open gambling casinos on Native American lands.

"Pataki has already taken the big chunk," he said, referring to the public's share of Native American casino profits. "You're going to get crumbs off the master's table. Politicians don't bring in gambling for the public revenues it generates for communities. Politicians are looking for the campaign contributions. The Indians have been contributing to both parties."

Judith Bachmann of Vernon,, vice chairwoman of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, spoke about the effects of the Oneida Nation's Turning Stone Casino, whose profits have purchased 18,000 acres of property, now off the tax rolls.

Co-sponsoring the evening were Citizens for Common Sense, the New Millennium Group and the Network of Religious Communities.

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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LANCASTER, CHEEKTOWAGA RESIDENTS OPPOSE
TRANSIT ROAD CASINO PLAN

Niki Cervantes, Buffalo News, September 3, 2003

Webmaster's Note

Over 500 casino opponents attended the Thursday meeting in Hillview Baptist Church.

9/04/03 - John Bartley
CACGEC Webmaster

Lancaster school officials Tuesday met with a representative of the Seneca Nation amid growing concern over the possibility of a casino being built on a site adjacent to Lancaster - and across the street from a Lancaster elementary school. Richard Foley, president of the Lancaster School Board, said district officials and others met with Rick Jemison, the Seneca Nation's chief of staff, to express concern about the possibility of a casino being built on Transit Road near Genesee Street.

Although the proposed site is in Cheektowaga, it borders a largely residential section of Lancaster and is relatively close to Hillview Elementary School, which is at the corner of Transit and Pleasant View Drive.

Foley said the Senecas are interested in buying Hillview from the district if they do decide to select the Transit Road site. He said Tuesday's discussion was preliminary and that a possible purchase price was not mentioned. However, Foley said the district is interested.

"It's not in the best interest of the district to have a school across the street from a casino," Foley said. "We'll have to wait and see and leave the door open."

Foley said the district has other concerns as well. One of them is that if the site is selected by the Senecas, it will be removed from the school district's tax rolls. He said the fiscal impact of that has not yet been assessed, however.

Also attending the hourlong session were Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis Gabryszak and Lancaster Supervisor Robert H. Giza.

"It was a nice, friendly meeting, and I did carry your thoughts to the meeting," Giza told a room full of residents during a meeting Tuesday evening of the Lancaster Town Board, which unanimously passed a resolution opposing a casino at that site. The resolution listed concerns that a casino would adversely affect neighborhoods in both towns in the form of rising crime and traffic problems and declining property values.

The Lancaster resolution will be sent to Cheektowaga, with copies to Gov. George E. Pataki, the Western New York delegations to Congress and the State Legislature, Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, the Seneca Nation and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Many Lancaster residents spoke against the casino at that location. Giza said the Senecas are also looking at two other sites in Cheektowaga that have not been disclosed.

About 20 people opposed to the casino attended the Cheektowaga Town Board meeting Tuesday night, including attorney Timothy Sherry, who represents many residents, and the Rev. Nelson C. McCall, pastor of Hillview Baptist Church, which is on the Lancaster side of Rehm Road, near Hillview Elementary School.

McCall said he was concerned about the damage to families, weakened moral fiber of the community and possible declining property values.

"If the casino was there 50 years ago, would the Marrano people and the other developers have built their homes across the street and around the community that we live?" asked McCall, adding it was unlikely the church would have settled there 49 years ago.

Bertamae Anger Ives of Cheektowaga said crime rates have gone up in areas surrounding other casinos.

"Do we want this? The before and after of Atlantic City is pretty sad," she said.

Meanwhile, parents whose children attend Hillview and others from nearby subdivisions are launching a drive against the casino, saying they are concerned about crime, congestion and the impact on the school district, property values and local businesses.

Residents opposed to the casino site will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in Hillview Baptist Church, 26 Rehm Road, to hear concerns and organize.

The Senecas have not settled on an exact location in Cheektowaga, but there are indications at this point that the Transit Road site is favored. The nation has approached several homeowners on Cloverleaf Drive - whose properties would become part of the site for the new casino - about selling their homes.

News Staff Reporters Barbara O'Brien and Anthony Cardinale contributed to this report.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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CHEEKTOWAGA RESIDENTS PROTEST CASINO PROPOSAL

Barbara O'Brien, Buffalo News, August 5, 2003    (Photo by Amy Young)
PROTEST THE POLITICAL GAMBLING MACHINE

The people had their say on two issues in Cheektowaga Monday night, and they said no to a casino and no to a change in the town's Conservation Advisory Council. About 15 people opposed to the location of a Seneca Nation gambling casino in Cheektowaga carried picket signs in front of Town Hall for 45 minutes before Monday's Town Board meeting.

"This is not the way Buffalo, Cheektowaga and Erie County should think of to make money," said Jackie Donaldson of Cheektowaga.

Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County brought the signs to Cheektowaga, where town residents and nonresidents carried them.

Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said he met with the anti-casino group last week.

"We sat down and talked for probably 45 minutes. They raised some issues," he said.

He said he has gotten calls from town residents who oppose the casino and just as many from residents in favor of it.

Elaine Reinhardt, another town resident, said she was concerned about the social impact of the casino.

"A lot of people don't know the facts," she said. "We don't even get a chance to vote on it."

"The economic loss will be worse than any of the gains," maintained Penny Wyatt of Buffalo.

The Seneca Nation of Indians has said it wants to build its second casino in the northwest section of Cheektowaga, although nation representatives have continued to talk to Buffalo officials about a city location.

After picketing Town Hall, some of the protesters attended the Town Board meeting, and two spoke during the meeting.

[The rest of this article was not included because it doesn't relate to the casino issue]

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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GIAMBRA LIKES IDEA OF SENECA CASINO IN OUTER HARBOR

Sandra Tan, Buffalo News, August 5,2003

A Seneca casino in an old cereal warehouse along Buffalo's outer harbor could be a catalyst for a broader waterfront development over the next four to 10 years, and fits in well with the county's and the city's redevelopment plans, Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra said Monday. In a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board, Giambra and other county officials pointed to continuing investments in green space along the port terminal properties south of the Festival Grounds at the Pier on Fuhrmann Boulevard.

Fever

"There are signs of panic among some of our elected officials, never a pretty sight and certainly not an encouraging one. The thought process of many of these people is cloudy when their minds are at ease. We hate to think what follies stress might induce."

7/30/03 - Donn Esmonde,
The Buffalo News

Millions of dollars have already been been committed to developing nature preserves, beaches, parks and trails, they said. Giambra said he sees a casino helping to push forward those projects and boost future development of brownfields such as the Bethlehem Steel property.

"You can see there's a plan here," Giambra said. "It's not just a whimsical, "Let's stick it here.' "

But some ideas he proposed remain a long way from becoming reality.

His latest concept - which has no developer or financial backing - would divide about 700 acres of Bethlehem Steel brownfields, currently owned by International Steel Group, into a replica of Scotland's legendary St. Andrews Links championship golf course and a commerce center with easy access to rails, roads and water.

Interest expressed by a national development team to remediate and purchase the old industrial property was just recently rebuffed by International Steel Group.

Meanwhile, adjacent to the property Giambra wants to offer the Seneca Nation of Indians, the domed amusement park proposed by the Toronto-based Syata Group is already showing signs of trouble, with the developers now seeking much more public money to build a larger entertainment venue.

"It might not happen," Giambra said. "We're still in negotiations."

County Environment and Planning Commissioner Laurence K. Rubin pointed out that many other outer harbor projects already have substantial public commitments and are nearing construction, from the $1.3 million Times Beach Nature Sanctuary for bird watching to the $10 million redevelopment of the Union Ship Canal property.

Those projects will be done regardless of whether the casino moves in, Rubin said, but a casino could turn the entire area into much more of a regional tourism draw.

Giambra acknowledged that his position on a casino in the Buffalo area has been less than firm over the last year. In his most recent State of the County address, Giambra stated his reluctance to embrace a casino in Erie County and later suggested that a second casino in Niagara Falls would be a better option.

But the proposal by the Senecas to build a casino in Cheektowaga has forced Giambra to reconsider his position, he said, especially since the casino legislation was crafted with the intention of assisting the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls by providing the localities with a cut of slot machine profits.

"You can call me inconsistent," he said. "You can call me vacillating. But the reality is, there is no influence that I, Joel Giambra, have on building in Cheektowaga. I'm being a realist about it. No pun intended: You've got to play the cards you're dealt."

If a casino helps the county realize a vision of an outer harbor, complete with light rail, water taxi systems, tour boats and hotel and retail development, all the better, he said. The waterfront location helps ensure that the casino does not just recycle money from local residents, but attracts tourism.

Seneca leaders have not shut the door on the outer harbor location, though they continue to express interest in building in Cheektowaga.

Barry E. Snyder Sr., president of the Tribal Council, said the Senecas' own architects and engineers were taking a look at the recommended outer harbor location Monday to see whether it is reasonable to consider building there.

The Senecas were originally looking at more open property by the Festival Grounds at the Pier, Snyder said.

Snyder raised a number of concerns related to transportation access, the age of the building, cost estimates to reuse the warehouse space and any other liabilities. Depending on what their consultants report, Snyder said, the Senecas may seek a more concrete business proposal for the location.

The proposed waterfront casino site is currently owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Lawrence M. Meckler, executive director of the NFTA, said the board would be willing to consider selling the property if there is some consensus from the region's leadership. "If the government leaders asked us to consider a proposal," he said, "I think we would have to take a look at it."

Though there have been informal discussions regarding the property over the last week, Meckler said, "there has been no specific proposal that has come back to us."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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CASINO PACT CAN CONTINUE, JUDGE RULES

Eric Durr - The Business Review, July 17, 2003

Legislation allowing as many as six casinos to be built in New York, allow the state to join the multi-state lottery, and install electronic slot machines at race tracks, has been ruled constitutional by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi.

The First Round

Albany attorney Cornelius Murray, a member of the firm of O'Connell and Aronowitz, who has been representing the anti-gambling group, said the ruling will be appealed.

Court cases like this are a marathon not a sprint, Murray said, adding that he expects to win in the end.

In a July 17 ruling, Teresi said that the various gambling statutes, which had all been challenged by a coalition of anti-gambling groups met the letter of the law.

Thus far, only one casino, in Niagara Falls, has been opened by the Seneca Nation of Indians and none of the electronic slot machines have yet to be installed by the racetracks. The Senecas have plans to open a second casino in Erie County, and possibly a third one on the reservation in Salamanca, if it's approved by tribal referendum.

Albany attorney Cornelius Murray, a member of the firm of O'Connell and Aronowitz, who has been representing the anti-gambling group, said the ruling will be appealed.

"Well basically, he has upheld the constitutionality of the legislation and the ball is in our court to take it to the higher court and challenge his legal analysis, which we think is erroneous, "Murray said. "That's what appeals courts are for," he added.

The legislation, approved in October 2001, allowed the governor to enter into casino gaming compacts with Native American Tribes, called for installing video lottery terminals at the state's racetracks to boost attendance, and allowed the state to join an interstate lottery to increase the lottery take.

Murray had argued that the video lottery terminal provision violated state law which required that the money go for educational purposes. The money is supposed to be returned to the New York Racing Authority to improve race tracks and increase payoffs.

He also argued that the plan to allow casino construction, which could include a Mohawk deal with Park Place Entertainment for a casino in the Catskills, violated state constitutional prohibitions against gambling.

Court cases like this are a marathon not a sprint, Murray said, adding that he expects to win in the end.

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CASINO CONTRACTOR LOBBIES WORKERS AGAINST UNIONS

James M. Odato, Capitol Bureau, timesunion.com
First published: Saturday, December 28, 2002

Albany-- Tribe's deal with state requires organizing be allowed but doesn't ban efforts to dissuade it

No Booze in Casino?

[Ed. note (7/14/03): Does anybody remember this report?]

"Seneca Indians will prohibit booze in Falls Casino. While awaiting federal approval of their newly signed agreement with New York State, the Seneca Indians announced Monday, 8/26, that their gambling casino in Niagara Falls, NY will not serve alcoholic beverages."

   www.lockport-ny.com, 8/27/02

The food and beverage contractor for the Seneca Niagara Casino is telling employees not to sign union cards and urges them not to risk the rebirth of Niagara Falls by giving in to organizing drives. The move by F&B Resource Management LLC of Niagara Falls comes despite the Seneca tribe's stated commitment to union labor, although it doesn't technically violate terms of the tribal-state gaming compact.

"Don't give in to pressure to sign right away," says a letter from Jon S. Rosky, director of F&B Resource Management, sent to food and beverage workers in recent weeks. "Our community has too much riding on the success of your casino. ... This casino is our hope for the beginning of the economic revitalization of Niagara Falls. ... We ask you to give us a chance to prove to you that our work environment does not need a union. ... We have enough challenges ahead of us, and we don't need a union telling us what to do."

The casino is set to open New Year's Eve. Between 200 and 600 people are eventually expected to work at the casino's restaurants and lounges.

The compact requires the Seneca to allow unions to distribute union cards at any of the up to three casinos the tribe is permitted to create: one in Niagara Falls, one in Buffalo and one on reservation land.

The law that allows the expansion of gambling in New York gave the Seneca labor terms different from those that would be required of any Indian tribe opening up to three casinos allowed in the Catskills. The Catskills employers would not only have to allow organizing, but they would have to remain neutral during any union drives. In effect, the law sets up two sets of labor rules -- one for the western New York casinos and one for the Catskill properties.

Rosky, Seneca Niagara Gaming Corp. Chief Executive G. Michael Brown and Seneca officials were unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman for Gov. George Pataki had no immediate comment.

"It sounds like it's coming from the casino," said Mario Cilento, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, referring to the letter. He said it appears the contractor has the right to weigh in with its view on organizing, but, "We believe all ... workers would be better served if they were represented by a union."

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PATAKI: UPHOLD CASINO COMPACT

Newsday,Inc., (AP) July 8, 2003

Albany - Gov. George Pataki said he has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a state compact that allows casino gambling on the Mohawk Indian reservation.

Pataki's lawyers have asked the state's top court, the Court of Appeals, to stay its June 12 ruling that invalidated the Mohawks' casino deal while he seeks an appeal to the nation's highest court.

Though leaders of the Mohawks' Akwesasne tribe urged the Legislature to ratify the casino pact, the June ruling was expected to have little practical effect on the operations of the gambling hall in northern New York.

A divided Court of Appeals ruled that the 1993 casino compact involving a casino in Hogansburg reached by the Mohawks and former Gov. Mario Cuomo was invalid because the State Legislature has never ratified it.

"We believe the Court of Appeals decision raised important issues of federal law and we have asked the Supreme Court to review the decision," Pataki spokeswoman Suzanne Morris said yesterday. "In the interim, we have requested the court to grant a stay to allow us to continue to regulate gaming at the casinos." The Court of Appeals has given the parties involved in the Mohawk casino case until Thursday to respond to Pataki's request for a stay.

The lawyer arguing against the 1993 compact, Cornelius Murray, who represents an anti-casino coalition including the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and several state legislators, said the Court of Appeals' ruling was "purely" about state law, not federal law.

"I think it is highly unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would presume to overrule a state's highest court on the issue of what powers a governor has under that state's own constitution," Murray said.

The Court of Appeals broadly hinted to state legislators in its June ruling that they were free to validate the 1993 compact anytime.

But the Legislature left Albany a week later without the Assembly having ratified the agreement. Speaker Sheldon Silver said he hadn't had enough time to study the issue.

Opponents have said that the casino has been operating illegally since it opened in 1999, and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has failed to exercise its powers to regulate the venture.

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STATLER CASINO NIXED: CORRUPT GAMING COMPACT BENEFICIARIES SEEK MORE AMENITIES

John McMahon - Alt Press, June 5, 2003

Did somebody say greed is good? Well then, guess what? That makes more greed even better.

Not content with the take at the Niagara Falls Seneca Casino, the people who negotiated the Seneca Gaming Compact with Gov. George Pataki, including convicted felon Arthur "Sugar" Montour, are now narrowing their sights on Buffalo. The latest news from the Seneca Nation of Indians' tribal council, which appears to have been infiltrated by Montour and the infamous Mohawk Warrior Society, is that the aging Statler Building in downtown Buffalo is off their site selection list for Casino Buffalo. The Statler lacks parking, and there's nowhere to put a gas station and a smoke shop.

As reported in Alt's series on the Warriors and Casino Buffalo, the preferred site for Casino Buffalo is the Adam's Mark Hotel on Church street.

Despite fierce grassroots opposition to a casino in Buffalo, the editorial staff at the Buffalo News has once again assumed the position that the community must assume the position and simply accept whatever outcome that is decided upon by the Governor's political-criminal nexus.

Lamenting the push for a casino here that would only compete with the existing Seneca casino in the Falls, the News editorial stated, "...that is the unfortunate state of affairs for Buffalo, which is to have a casino, whether it makes sense or not. Whether it wants it or not. The compact signed with the state gives the Senecas the right to build a casino here."

"This is probably the worst deal for Indians since somebody sold Manhattan for some beads."

   Wayne R. Smith,
    Former Deputy,
    Bureau of Indian Affairs

Resignation to fate is sometimes warranted, but there is something to be said for taking fate in one's own hands. The editors at The News have chosen to ignore evidence that members or the Mohawk Warrior Society, a group with documented links to terrorism, were involved in negotiating the compact. They've pretty much ignored the usury perpetrated on the Seneca Nation by the deal the Warriors cut with Lim Goh Tong [Ed. note - See News Story by J. Zremski], which ensures that the Senecas on the Reservation will see virtually no profit from the casino in Niagara Falls. In doing so, they've decided the fate of three communities: Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and the Seneca Nation.

While sharks circle in the waters trying to perhaps reach a compromise with a casino location outside of Buffalo, such as the airport, The News throws up its hands and sighs. With the monopoly daily newspaper thus successfully co-opted, the sky's the limit for the Governor and his rat pack.

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HEART DISEASE DATA CATCHES CLINTON'S EYE

Bill Michelmore - Buffalo News, May 30, 2003

PROMOTERS SALIVATE
OVER AUD

Developers Working
"quietly through channels"

On 5/29/2003, the News reported on deals being made behind the scenes:

"While talk of a gambling facility at the Aud reportedly has been going on behind the scenes for some time, those discussions have gained fresh momentum, following word the Senecas are no longer targeting the Statler Towers on Niagara Square as a casino site.

"The mayor hinted the Empire State Development Corp., which has put $21 million on the table for the Bass Pro project, is working quietly through channels in Albany and New York City to interest the Senecas in the site. Agency officials declined to comment.

"Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, .. called the Aud an 'awesome' alternative site for a Seneca casino.

"The Senecas are being courted by a number of casino companies interested in developing and operating the new facility. Buffalo's Delaware North Cos. is among them."

Source: SHARON LINSTEDT,
Buffalo News, 5/29/2003

NIAGARA FALLS - Niagara County leads the nation in heart disease, and the odds of having a heart attack increased dramatically after the Seneca Niagara Casino opened here on New Year's Eve, hospital officials said Thursday. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who was at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center vowing to push for federal funds to help build a new $10 million cardiac center, was stunned by that information.

"Casinos are a major stress factor in causing heart attacks, especially if you lose," said Dr. Michael E. Merhige, a Mayo Clinic-trained cardiologist who recently joined the staff at Niagara Falls Memorial.

The medical center handled 165 ambulance trips to the casino in its first three months of operation, said Joseph A. Ruffolo, president of the medical center.

Heart problems among casino patrons became so acute that the hospital and casino management formed a financial partnership to provide immediate health care for the new tourist attraction's 2,400 employees.

"I didn't know heart disease was so prevalent in Niagara County, and I didn't know that about the casino," Clinton said. "And I look forward to the day when Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is the benchmark for treating cardiac disease in America."

Merhige said the Heart Center of Niagara, which was announced earlier this month, would have new heart-scanning technology that exists in only a few hospitals throughout the country.

He is a specialist at using the technology, called positron emission tomography, or PET, a $1.6 million scanner that can predict heart disease 10 years in advance.

Construction, which is scheduled to begin in the fall and be completed a year later, will go ahead with or without the federal funds, Merhige said.

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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DRIVER OF BUS IN WHICH FIVE DIED GETS PRISON TERM

Ben Dobbin - Associated Press - May 28, 2003

CANANDAIGUA - A tour bus driver who admitted he spent a weekend gambling in Niagara Falls, Ont., and got almost no sleep before a crash that killed five passengers was sentenced Tuesday to up to 10 years in prison. William Hovan, 60, pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter, assault, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. The Arrow Line bus swerved off a highway and plunged down a 75-foot embankment last June when Hovan fell asleep at the wheel.

"This man gambled with our lives and we, the passengers, lost," said passenger Andres Rivera Jr., whose 15-year-old niece, Jazmine Santiago, was killed.

Hovan covered his mouth with his hands and later declined the chance to address the court. His sentence was three years and four months to 10 years. If convicted at trial, he could have drawn up to five to 15 years in prison.

Hovan "did not wake up that day" intending to hurt anyone, said defense attorney John Speranza. "He is not a hard or unremorseful or unfeeling man. . . . This person is a good person who simply made a bad choice on that day."

Judge Greg Doran said it wasn't his role to determine if Hovan was "an evil man" but maintained that "he has committed an evil act."

While declaring himself "uncomfortable with the sentence," the judge added that he "doesn't believe it's possible to do justice in view of the terrible pain and suffering that has been inflicted."

Hovan had initially denied falling asleep and blamed a bump in the road or a blown tire. But state police said he admitted he spent the entire weekend gambling at a Canadian casino and got 31/2 hours of sleep in the two days before the crash.

They also found no problems with the bus or the road surface.

The bus was taking church groups home to Waterbury, Conn., from Niagara Falls when it plowed through a guardrail on the New York State Thruway and toppled down an embankment near Victor, a town 15 miles southeast of Rochester.

The five victims, all from Waterbury, ranged in age from 15 to 30.

Hovan, a resident of Trumbull, Conn., had worked as a bus driver since 1967 and had no prior criminal record. Indicted five weeks after the crash, he had remained free on $25,000 bail until sentencing.

Hovan won $4,000 the first night at Casino Niagara, then lost it all the next night, state police Investigator Chris Baldwin said.

The day of the crash, police said, he catnapped for a half-hour while the passengers, on a three-day sightseeing tour, visited a botanical garden. When they re-boarded, some joked that he looked too tired for the trip and even took snapshots of him slouched in the driver's seat.

Just over an hour into the trip, when fatigue appeared to be getting the better of him, Ruth Restituyo went up the aisle to tell him some passengers in the rear were scared.

Restituyo, 30, was returning to her seat when the bus swerved off the highway, killing her, two teenagers and a 29-year-old couple. Six other people were seriously injured, including the couple's 18-month-old daughter.

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STATLER ELIMINATED AS CASINO SITE

Dan Herbeck - Buffalo News, May 24, 2003

Leaders of the Seneca Nation expect to make a long-awaited decision next month on the preferred site for their second gambling casino in Western New York. And the site will not be the Statler Towers office building in downtown Buffalo, Seneca President Rickey L. Armstrong Sr. said Friday afternoon.

The Statler Towers site has been promoted in the past by Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and some prominent city business leaders as the best casino site in downtown Buffalo.

"As of (Thursday) night, the Statler is definitely off the table," Armstrong said in an interview. "We've evaluated a number of sites and eliminated some as they became unfeasible. We've eliminated the Statler."

He said the Statler building, at Delaware Avenue and Mohawk Street, was eliminated because there is "a lack of parking in that area, and it's just not suitable for our purposes."

The Senecas expect to announce a preferred site for their second area Class III casino during their June 14 Tribal Council meeting, according to Armstrong and Barry E. Snyder, an influential Seneca businessman who is chairman of the Tribal Council.

Snyder said he doubts the second casino would be ready in time to have another grand opening on New Year's Eve, as the first Seneca casino had in Niagara Falls on Dec. 31.

"We expect to have a site chosen then," Snyder said, "but I don't think we're going to see another casino built in 100 days."

Snyder was referring to the extraordinarily short construction deadline that was met before the Senecas opened the Seneca Niagara Casino in the former Niagara Falls Convention Center.

Masiello said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision on the Statler building but added that he still feels his administration can work with the Senecas on a city casino project.

"I've been knee-deep in other issues over the past few weeks and hadn't heard about this," the mayor said. "I met with a group from the Senecas about three weeks ago. They said they were still in the process of looking at sites and would get back to me . . . I'm surprised they didn't come to me and tell me this themselves.

"I really want to do this project in Buffalo, but only if it's done right. We've been good to the Senecas, and they need to be good to us, too." Masiello said he still believes the Statler was the best Buffalo location.

FINANCING IS AN ISSUE

A number of issues, including the financing of the $100 million-plus project, would have to be addressed before construction on a Buffalo-area casino can go forward, Snyder said.

"It will be built somewhere in or around the city of Buffalo," Armstrong said. "We're still looking at some options."

Armstrong said some other possible sites also have been eliminated but declined to name them. He also declined to discuss what sites still are being considered.

"We don't want to say anything to inspire land developers to go out and start buying the properties near the locations we're looking at," he said.

In the past, the Senecas have expressed interest in the Adam's Mark Hotel location on Church Street and in the Outer Harbor property owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

"We continue to operate, business as usual," said Kevin Kuchta, spokesman for Adam's Mark. "We've not heard of any discussions about the hotel being used as a casino."

NFTA Chairman Luiz F. Kahl said in February that a gambling casino would be an inappropriate use of the authority's waterfront property. Kahl was not available to comment Friday, and an NFTA spokesman said he was unaware of any recent policy changes on the issue.

The opening of a Buffalo-area casino reportedly would result in 2,500 new jobs with an annual payroll in the range of $100 million.

But critics say it also would harm the local economy by giving problem gamblers a convenient new place to lose their money.

There have been a number of delays in the site-selection process for the second casino. In late February, Seneca officials said they expected to have a site chosen within a few weeks, but in March, they said they were studying the issue further, evaluating a number of possible locations in Erie County.

TAX DISPUTE SLOWS PROGRESS

The ongoing dispute with state lawmakers over proposals to tax the Senecas' tobacco and gasoline profits also has slowed the process.

"We're still doing a lot of investigation (and) looking at every possible avenue," Snyder said.

Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, a former member of the Buffalo Casino Task Force, expressed skepticism Friday that any decision is near for a Seneca casino site.

Paladino, who strongly favors the Statler site for the project, said he does not believe the Senecas have done enough research to make such a decision. "I'll believe it when I see them take the deed to some property," he said.

While releasing no financial figures, Armstrong said the Senecas are "very pleased" with attendance and profits at the casino in Niagara Falls.

The casino opened its new Blue Heron Club for "high rollers" Friday night, and within the next week or so, should be opening a nonsmoking area with gaming tables and 450 slot machines, Armstrong said. "We may be releasing some financial figures in the next 30 to 40 days," Armstrong added.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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COURT PUTS TEMPORARY HALT ON INDIAN CASINO DEALS

Buffalo News, May 20, 2003

ALBANY (AP) - A State Supreme Court justice on Monday temporarily halted further action by Gov. George E. Pataki on Indian casino deals. Justice Joseph Teresi ordered the Pataki administration and the attorneys for the anti-casino coalition suing the state to submit written arguments on Friday to his Albany court. Monday's order restrains the Pataki administration from further action on gambling with Indian tribes and calls for arguments on the constitutionality of Indian casinos.

The coalition's attorney, Cornelius Murray, contends that the state constitution prohibits casino gaming, even on Indian land within New York State. Tribes contend that they are sovereign nations.

The state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, is deliberating a case, also argued by Murray, that questions the ability of governors to enter into compact agreements without the approval of the state Legislature.


MAN RESCUED FROM SUICIDE ATTEMPT

Helen O'Neill, The Associated Press July 7, 2003

Part I: Police had never seen anything like this - a man trapped last March at the very brink of Niagara Falls, his feet wedged beneath a rock. Rescuers were certain that the torrent or the cold would finish him off in minutes. And yet he hung on.

Even after 15 years of flying rescue missions here, a call to the falls gives helicopter pilot Kevin Caffery chills.

"Oh my God, Artie,'' Caffery gasped to his partner in the cockpit. "Look at where he is.''

In the gathering dusk, the sight was almost otherworldly: a tiny, dark figure trapped on the very brink of Horseshoe Falls. All around him thundered water, white and foaming, hurtling over the cataract into the Niagara River 170 feet below.

"How the heck are we going to get this guy?'' Art Litzinger shouted into his microphone.

Caffery, a captain with the Erie County Sheriff's Department, shook his head.

The pilots could make out two roped rescuers, state park police Sgt. Patrick Moriarty and firefighter Gary Carella, edging through the water toward the victim. They were hugging the bank, trying to fight the rapids. Above them, fanned out across a steep ice embankment, were the silhouettes of other rescuers clinging to their safety ropes, which were anchored to a lone tree.

The man had been in the water more than an hour, his feet jammed into a crevice in the rock. By now, throngs of onlookers lined the Canadian shore.

The pilots didn't feel hopeful, just powerless.

For a helicopter pilot, everything about Niagara is unforgiving, from the blinding mist to the ferocious and wildly unpredictable updrafts that burst from the brink, threatening to flip the craft.

Caffery and Litzinger fly hundreds of search-and-rescue missions a year. They are used to landing in all sorts of spots, plucking all sorts of victims from danger. In March alone, they rescued eight people in separate incidents, in one case landing on a sheet of ice that was floating down the rapids carrying two stranded ice fishermen.

In 2001 Caffery won the prestigious Carnegie heroism medal for landing the helicopter on a submerged rock to save a woman stranded in the rapids.

At 54, Caffery is calm and unruffled, always sure of himself and his mission.

He would have to fly his old, small helicopter awfully close to the falls to get the basket to the victim. But they had to try. The helicopter edged toward the falls, easing lower, closer. Suddenly, it was too close. The man in the water nearly toppled in the wash from the blades.

Wind shear bounced the helicopter about. The mist was blinding.

Caffery fought to steady the craft. He flew two low swoops before heading back to shore.

"We're coming back for you,'' Litzinger yelled, pushing his hands against the cockpit window in a thumbs-up sign. For a second the two men locked eyes. Litzinger will never forget his look.

"He thinks it's just too dangerous and we've abandoned him,'' Litzinger cried.

Rescuers edge closer

In the water, Moriarty and Carella strained against their ropes.

They were close enough to get a good look at the man, although they still knew nothing about him.

Later, they would learn that he was 48, that he had waded into the river despondent over hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts, that he lived with his elderly parents in Buffalo, N.Y.

For now, they just knew him as the man on the brink.

And they were losing hope.

The power companies had responded immediately, lowering the river by about eight inches by diverting water through their power plants about a mile and a half from the falls.

But it takes time for the effects to be felt at the crest, where the water was already at its low winter volume.

Waves were crashing around the man's legs, but his body, though drenched, was not submerged. Otherwise they would have lost him to hypothermia long before.

"I'm so cold,'' he kept crying. "What have I done? What have I done?''

"Hang in there,'' Moriarty shouted, trying to sound confident and strong.

But it was clear the man was giving up. He craned his neck and gazed down into the gorge, a long, agonized stare. Then he turned back with a kind of resigned shrug.

"He's making peace with things,'' thought fire Capt. Bruce Andrews on the rope line. "He knows he's out of time.''

[Miraculously, however, the man was eventually rescued, and was relieved to learn that no one else had perished on his behalf.]

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