By PAULA TERWILLEGER
I am a proud member of the community of Verona. I have lived here all my life, my parents live here, I go out to eat here, I shop here and I have raised my family here. I hope to retire here.
I am also an Oneida member who works at Turning Stone Resort Casino.
I am proud to be part of a community that has continued growing despite tough economic times. And I am frightened to think of what could happen to our community if Lago, the proposed Seneca County casino, is permitted to move forward.
I vividly remember the early days in 1993 when Turning Stone was only a small casino with table games. Community residents were hopeful that Turning Stone would create 1,000 jobs. And, fairly quickly it happened. Now, here we are today with nearly 5,000 jobs. I don’t understand why anyone would want to undermine that type of economic success.
I have seen constant progress in all areas of Turning Stone and how it has helped grow our region and provide stability to our neighborhoods. In my family alone, both my son and I work at the casino and my husband is a vendor for Turning Stone. We want to keep our jobs and stay in the community that we have lived our whole lives and love.
As a life-long member of this community, I’ve had a front row seat in watching countless companies pick up and move overseas or out of state. We’ve all seen it play out many times — companies shut down, people have to move, families get divided and communities get ripped apart.
In most of those instances we were helpless to the circumstances, if a company decided to shut down and open elsewhere, there was nothing our community or the state could do to stop it. That is not the case with the proposed Lago casino. The state Gaming Commission has it within their power to prevent a catastrophe by rejecting Lago’s application.
The proposed Lago casino is bad for our entire region — pitting local economies against each other. This is not development or growth and not worthy of the state’s support.
The Oneida Indian Nation supported gaming expansion in New York, after all, we know firsthand how gaming, when done in a smart and thoughtful way, can positively impact communities and save a struggling economy.
There are areas in New York that are underserved and could have used the benefits of gaming expansion – but the Lago proposal is not the right decision. The proposed Lago casino is less than 25 miles from Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and less than 70 miles from Turning Stone Resort Casino. Gaming revenue will just be pulled from existing facilities, revenue that is directly shared with our community. That is not smart economic policy.
It is for that reason so many people from our community have been outspoken against the proposed Lago casino. Local community leaders such as Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and organizations like Oneida County Tourism and Rome Chamber of Commerce have all voiced their opposition to the proposed Lago casino. Like me, they don’t want to see our community suffer any more economic setbacks.
Luckily, it’s not too late to reverse course. The New York State Gaming Commission has it with its power to reject the Lago Casino proposal – we are counting on them to do so.