Buffalo shuffles
off casino plans

Aug 8, 2006 6:20 AM

Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr. has announced that talks between the Seneca Nation and the city of Buffalo, New York are over.

The Nation has been trying to negotiate the purchase of a two-block section of Fulton Street, which runs through the nine-acre parcel acquired last fall to build a large-scale downtown casino. The proposed 100,000-square-foot casino was to have created 1,000 new jobs in a city that could use an economic boost.

Snyder told reporters that a temporary 5,000-square-foot casino with 100 slot machines would be built within a year in order to meet the Nation’s compact deadline while plans are finalized for a "less magnificent permanent casino." Snyder said, "It will not be the glorious beacon we had envisioned."

Plans for the original $125 million casino were contingent on the purchase of the stretch of Fulton Street, a deal that seemed a sure thing under former Mayor Anthony Masiello. Snyder said the city had "incompetent negotiating tactics and a leadership failure at the highest levels of city government," that led to the Seneca’s change of plans.

Mayor Byron W. Brown told The Buffalo News that it was Seneca Erie Gaming that forced the city to discontinue talks when they issued an "ultimatum" — either sign an agreement or part company.

In an interview with station WGRZ in Buffalo, Brown said the city had agreed to a sale of Fulton Street, contingent on certain guarantees: that half the casino’s staff would be hired locally; that one-third of employees would be minorities and women; that the Seneca would not acquire additional tax-exempt land in downtown Buffalo; and that they would market the casino and other local attractions outside of Western New York. The Nation made a handshake agreement to the terms, but refused to provide guarantees in writing.

Snyder told a WGRZ reporter that if it weren’t for the courts holding them to their Buffalo contract, the Nation would pull out and take their casino project to the city of Cheektowaga.

As for the scope of a future, permanent casino on the downtown Buffalo site, Snyder said, "I think that’s up to the city now. They know we need Fulton Street. That piece of property divides us. From sovereign territory to sovereign territory, makes it very difficult for us."

tribes crowing

A new study profiling four tribal economies in Washington State details the positive impact of Indian gaming, the Snohomish County Times reported.

Conducted for the Washington Indian Gaming Association by independent economist Jonathan Taylor, the report shows that tribes are investing casino profits in new businesses and tribal services, and "raising the economic prospects of their members and the surrounding communities."

In 2004, tribal businesses including casinos generated more than $3.2 billion in revenue and employed more than 13,000 people.

The growth of the Tulalips’ economy, in particular, was described as "explosive." The tribe’s 2005 taxable sales reached $311 million, generating $26 million for the state.

But for years, the Tulalips have been trying to keep more of what they generate. Last year alone, the tribe’s Quil Ceda Village business development created $2.2 million in local sales tax, but the tribe received none of this. State Representative John McCoy, who is also general manager of the Tulalips’ business development, introduced a bill in the legislature to redirect the local tax profits to the tribe. The bill passed in the House, but failed in a Senate committee.

Butting heads
in Alabama

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take his side in an ongoing struggle to keep gaming operations from growing in the state.

Following on the heals of the Seminoles in Florida, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama asked the Department of the Interior to grant them permission to expand their gaming operations. The tribe would like to expand to Class III gaming, and add pari-mutuel wagering on dog and horse races, poker tournaments and sweepstakes.

King, with the blessings of Gov. Bob Riley, sent a letter to the Interior asking the department to deny the tribe’s request. Riley has consistently refused to negotiate with the Poarch Creeks on any gambling expansion.

Alabama state law permits sweepstakes and pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog races in some locations, but does not permit poker or lotteries.