NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - Business is booming for a number of pawn shops that operate within a few blocks of the Seneca Niagara Casino. Unfortunately, a lot of their business comes from gamblers desperate to make up for losses at the casino.
About four blocks away the Falls casino is Niagara Coins & Collectibles, which buys jewelry on the spot.
Owner Lou Muzzillo said, "I would say probably 20 percent, 15 percent of our business is casino-related. We have regulars; I have one guy that comes in all the time, brings his bracelet in, gets $200 for it, goes to the casino. His wife of course doesn't know this. This is what he uses for his gambling money. Then, when he wins, he comes back, picks it up, if he loses, I don't know what he tells his wife, but he usually comes back within a couple weeks and picks it up."
>>Take a look at some of the items for sale in one of these pawn shops in the additional video with this story. George Richert shows off some of what is sold, including a violin for $50
Muzzillo holds each item for six months and charges three percent interest per month. Over on Pine Avenue, Ruben's Buy & Sell Shop holds an item for two months.
"I write them a letter. If they don't show up for a week, I put it up for sale," said owner Michael Giangreco.
About half of the customers at Giangreco's shop are believed to be gamblers.
"A little bit it is [sad] because some of those people really give sad stories to me, like they're shutting the electricity off," he noted.
Muzzillo added, "They need gas money to get back to Pennsylvania or Ohio."
Despite its name, El Casino Gold Mine gets the smallest share of the gambling customers.
"We have to make money just like, you know, everyone else has to make money, but you try to give a good bargain for both ends," owner Kenneth McNeil said.
On a regular basis, Niagara Falls Police will come to these stores checking for stolen property.
Muzzillo explained, "We have to keep records and get photo IDs, so there's very little chance of people selling stolen goods here."
Dr. Mary McConnell sees this happening in some of the 50 problem gamblers she counsels through Jewish Family Services.
"People who gamble are impulsive," said Dr. McConnell. One day, this person took all the jewelry and went and pawned it, and pawned the wedding ring that they were wearing."
The doctor says by the time this happens, "The gambler has already destroyed any trust that there was in the relationship because of lying.""
Susan Ceccatto of Niagara Coins & Collectibles said, "There's a lot more problems with the economy than just gambling, the lack of jobs. There's a lot of good people that need money that their jobs don't give them the money to make it through the month. It's just a symptom of the whole problem."
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