Former Rochester mayors weigh in on casino negotiations

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This isn’t the first time Rochester has been considered for a casino.

MORE: Potential Rochester-area casino prompts concerns

But two former mayors tell News10MBC that a decision as big as this one has to involve city leaders and their approval, and that there are a lot of moving parts to get them on board.

“I remain as opposed to it today as I was in 2005 when that talk first surfaced,” said Bill Johnson, who led the city from 1994 to 2005. He said he’s never subscribed to the idea of a casino in the city.

In his opinion, the region just doesn’t need another casino, and many haven’t brought in the dollars once promised.

“I don’t see what putting it downtown would facilitate, how it would grow the market,” said Johnson. “What you’re doing is shifting people from one place to another.”

Johnson doesn’t see the proposal going anywhere if current city leadership isn’t on board. In a statement Monday morning, Mayor Malik Evans said conversation of this magnitude that doesn’t involve local stakeholders is unacceptable.

Johnson said any decision like this involves a big sacrifice: handing over a portion of downtown to the Seneca Nation.

“Not that I’m opposed to Native American territory, but I think it can be put to much better use than to put a casino on it,” said Johnson.

Former Mayor Bob Duffy led the city from 2006 to 2010. He recalls similar discussions with the Seneca Nation.

Duffy said back then, the Nation was looking to build a scaled-down version of a casino, along the Genesee River.

“We met at my office,” he said. “A few days later, they declined any further action. There was no pressure from state or any authorities. They were just looking at possibilities.”

As current CEO for the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, he said the chamber is neither for or against a casino.

His frustrations, however, lie around the fact that alleged negotiations are happening behind closed doors.

“Whomever is involved with these negotiations are leaking information,” Duffy said. “I just think it’s inappropriate. Because it should not get out like this, its creating more confusion, more anger already. It may be much to do about nothing, it may be something.”