Parlato: We should cancel Seneca preferences now

“Equality with Seneca”
is our motto

By Frank Parlato Jr.
March 22, 2006 (Niagara Gazette)
March 27, 2006 ( and Tonawanda News)

They’re going great guns. Astonished, the locals ask, “How do they do it, these Seneca gods?”

“Without taxes,” — that’s the answer.

The casino and their complex, and the infrastructure leading to it, were paid for, directly or indirectly, by tax-paying Americans — while Seneca pays none. With 50 acres, and the ability to open any business, the casino is merely the tip of the iceberg.

“The casino?” dumbfounded, the locals ask. “I thought that was all they got.”

It displaced a convention center where out-of-town people convened, then went to hotels and restaurants. It became a foreign casino, but tourists hardly come. The gamblers — by Seneca design — are mainly middle and low-income locals. Ironic: The Convention Center made money for locals from out of town people; the Foreign Casino (which displaced it) made money for out of town people (Seneca and Albany) from locals.

Here’s their formula: Win from a large number of petty gamblers, $50 to 100 at a clip; it’s called “the grind.” More lucrative and easier than attracting the big-time ‘gold-tooth’ gamblers — as are believed to be flocking to Las Vegas, the “grind” attracts the tinsel puff version: Shabbily dressed, unglamorously inelegant, grotesquely unlearned, often unshaved, sometimes unwashed, always sans suit and tie — these, who know nothing of the laws of probability. You can scan the whole place and not find anyone smiling, 4 million a year — on average $85 poorer.

A gold-tooth player loses a million and smiles. A bumpkin loses $50 and blames the gods, and curses his girlfriend. But that’s who they got at Seneca Niagara: Mr. Shabby. Nine times out of 10, he’s local born and bred.

In three years, $900 million of local’s monies lost, the ice skating rink, the convention center, seven restaurants, six taverns — closed. Two hotels foreclosed. Population dropped. Crime rising. Bankruptcy rising. Locals are pouring their entertainment money into slots, not spending it at cinemas or sporting events, local taverns or restaurants. Sometimes, if they spend too much — it comes out of groceries or rent.

However, Seneca, like Oliver Twist, wanted more: It opened a buffet, a pub, a “high-end” steak house, an Italian restaurant, an Asian restaurant, a glamour spa, a conference center, a bistro, a coffee shop, a nightclub, a 26-story, 604-room hotel, and gift shops galore.

While Americans pay sales tax, income tax and property tax, Seneca pays nothing while selling sweat shirts, baseball caps, T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, golf wear, costume jewelry, plush toys, jewelry, blankets, sculptures, TVs, high-end electronics, DVDs, golf clubs, cameras, diamonds and more.

If people drive miles to rural reservations to save a few dollars on cigarettes and gasoline, imagine how far they’ll drive when Seneca has as many stores as the Galleria Mall. A smoke shop, a gas station, a car dealership next? On a $20,000 car, $1,600 saved in sales tax.

How will the Galleria mall compete when they pay $3 million a year in property taxes and upwards of $20 million in sales tax? Or the Sheraton Millennium — which accommodates overnight Galleria shoppers — and pays another $2 million. But Seneca has its own hotel, so if tourists come, they can stay at the Seneca hotel bed-tax free.

“How did we let them take over the town?”

“Albany,” is the answer.

“But can we fight back?” The locals ask. “We haven’t the pluck.”

We could burn tires and blockade roads. We could charge tolls into Seneca, or sue Albany on the faultiness of a compact that left locals on an insurmountably uneven playing field. If opposition were vigorous, Seneca might opt to pay taxes on their retail operations in order to keep the monopoly on their million-per-day casino.

But the stumbling block is not the law: It’s the politically-correct apologists who claim we owe Seneca because they’re “our” victims.

Bewildered, Americans ask, “Why does a person, because of his race — and tribe — have an advantage over other Americans?”

The politically-correct answer is “because of what Columbus and Custer did. And how the white man savaged the Indian.”

The apologists secretly smile for Seneca. They publish erudite tomes on reparations. Sometimes, the liberal press joins in with the pejorative assumption that anyone who doesn’t agree is a bigot. The apologists, referring to people long-dead with similar skin hues, say “’we’ savaged the red man.”

Was it my ancestors? Wait — they were in Italy at the time.

Logically, the whole argument falls to pieces — unless, of course, they’re referring to reincarnation.

"We people in Niagara Falls really cheated the Indians in 1794,” I can imagine a person saying, perhaps remembering his past life. “It's about time we did something to make it up to them."

But, as one politically-incorrect American said, “I can’t work up enough guilt, since I wasn’t around in 1794.”

The whole argument that someone living in the 21st century owes someone else for what someone did to someone else in the 18th century is logically a fraud.

For those strong enough to understand it: It’s time to demand “equality with Seneca” now!

Frank R. Parlato Jr. is a Niagara Falls businessman.


Below is a response by one of the readers of the Gazette to the above article

Disagreeing with Parlato’s views

(Letters to the Editor)
John M. Antone
Tuscarora Indian Reservation
April 04, 2006

I read Mr. Parlato's commentary (on March 22) pertaining to the "unfair advantages" the Senecas have at their Casinos and in their smoke shops. After reading it the first time, I got the impression that Mr. Parlato was just another hate spewing, whites-only racist. As soon as my initial appall over his rambling diatribe subsided, I realized that his views are just those of a small, ignorant man.

What racial or ethnic groups deserve different rules than others in the United States? How about those that have treaties with the federal government? African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Jews or Muslims don't have treaties with Uncle Sam, but we do. All of them broken, too. We’re not looking for reparations, handouts, or pity from the government, but upholding their end of countless treaties would be nice.

The casino is taking away business from mall-type stores (electronics, clothing, jewelry, etc.) because of their tax-free advantage? Apparently, Mr. Parlato has never set foot inside Seneca Niagara Casino, or he would know that all goods are marked up extremely high, sold almost entirely to players club members cashing in their comp dollars. Then again, it sounds like Mr. Parlato wouldn't care to sit at the blackjack table with any common man dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans.

Mr. Parlato suggests a protest by burning tires on the roads leading to the casino. More power to you! Throughout American history, people have used protests of action when peaceful assembly has not worked.

Of course, these protests are only used as a last resort, when those backed into a corner feel actions speak louder than words. Ever hear of the Boston Tea Party, Whiskey Rebellion, or Harper’s Ferry?

What about the convention center being taken over by the Senecas? Please, that dump was heading nowhere fast! Any convention-goers would immediately head to Niagara Falls, Ontario, to spend their entertainment dollar. Now, as the casino grows and grows, local politicians fight over who gets the millions and millions in slot revenue (Unless they're in front of a camera, then it’s all smiles and hugs).

Forgive me, Frank, if I don’t shed a tear over your borderline racist, self-serving commentary. To me, it just sounds like the babbling of an ignorant man.

The following is a response to John Antone's letter to the editor:

Racism or reverse racism?

By Angela Castiglione
April 24, 2006

This is in response to a letter written by John Antone of the Tuscarora Indian Reservation defending the Seneca legal preferences. Mr Antone calls writer Frank Parlato’s demand for “equality under law” for the average American in Niagara Falls with the wealthy Seneca as “borderline racist.”
Demanding equality is racist? Since when?
I wonder, if Mr Antone is even aware that  Seneca has legal rights superior to his own tribe- the Tuscarora.
The Seneca alone, not the Tuscarora, is permitted to open gambling casinos and tax-free hotels in Niagara Falls. However, in my mind, all men and women in the US are supposed to be equal. Mr. Antone, as an Indian, apparently believes he deserves legal preference.
But let me ask, why should one ethnic group deserve laws different than others while living in the US? Why should the Indians be privileged over other Americans? My ancestors came from Italy and faced degrading humiliation and constant prejudice -- but they became Americans. Upon becoming so, they became equal to every other American. The “Native American,” however live in a world apart, on and off their reservations. They have had complete tax-free advantages in the US for more than a century.
Are Americans supposed to atone to them for eternity? Still, what irks me is that many “Native Americans” call themselves American citizens only when it’s to their advantage. While using American roads, police protection, and other benefits and protections of our society, including the right to vote, they are equal to Americans. When it's time to pay for those privileges and services which they benefit from, they immediately cease to be an American. Now they are “Native American,”  members of a sovereign nation who deserve privileges and legal preferences over other Americans.
Mr. Antone writes, “We're not looking for reparations, handouts, or pity from the government, but upholding their end of countless treaties.”
But where, Mr Antone, in those treaties, does it say Indians get free land for gambling casinos? Which treaty mentions Senecas should own casinos while Americans may not? Where does it say  Albany can take land from the city of Niagara Falls to give it to a sovereign nation to make a gambling casino, when it is otherwise illegal to gamble in this state? We have a treaty in America too. It's called The Bill of Rights. It proclaims all Americans are equal and have the same rights as any other.
I would say this to all who are of Indian ancestry: if you believe you are an American, then become one. Stop looking for privileges over other Americans. On the other hand, if you are a foreigner to this nation -- the United States Of America, then I expect you should have less rights, not more than Americans.
But, it seems today some people are a Sovereign national when it suits them and an American citizen when that benefits them. That sounds a little like racism in reverse.
Angela Castiglione
Niagara Falls