Seneca Nation unveils revised NY casino plan

By Carolyn Thompson
Buffalo, New York (AP) April 2012

The Seneca Indian Nation announced plans to resume construction of a permanent casino in Buffalo, more than three years after suspending the project because of the poor economy.

The western New York tribe said it would build a $130 million casino to replace a temporary slots facility that has operated on its 9.5-acre site since 2007.

Before the recession, the Senecas planned a $333 million casino and hotel complex that was to be one of the largest private projects ever undertaken in the upstate city.

The redesigned version will have a small restaurant and bar and an attached four-level parking area for 715 cars. The plans do not include a hotel.

The design by Memphis firm Hnedak Bobo Group incorporated community input and is meant to blend in with plans to develop the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby Buffalo River waterfront, Seneca officials said.

The area immediately around the casino is largely industrial and sits on the outskirts of the city’s downtown. The tribe has promised $1 million in grants for groups to improve infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and signage in the area.

“We are all in this together and we will succeed through collaboration,” Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter said.

The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is expected to open next summer and initially will employ 500 people.

A now-rusted steel frame erected in 2008 as part of the larger project will come down over the next five or six weeks. About 340 tons of the steel will be reused for the new casino when construction begins this summer.

The Senecas also operate two successful casinos in Niagara Falls and on reservation land in Salamanca in Cattaraugus County.

The Buffalo casino is the third and final one allowed under a 2002 agreement with the state that requires the tribe to share a percentage of slot machine revenues with the state and host communities.

Still pending is a federal lawsuit filed by an antigambling coalition seeking to prevent gambling on the Buffalo site. Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County argue the casino site, which was purchased by the Senecas, does not qualify as sovereign territory and worry a casino would drain money from Buffalo’s economy, cause a net loss in jobs and a host of social ills.