Jun 21, 2001 7:58 PM

Gov. George Pataki and the Seneca Indian Nation have reached an agreement to build two casinos in Buffalo and Niagara Falls and possibly a third.

Pataki, a proponent of casinos as an economic development tool and a vehicle to settle outstanding Indian land claims, said the facilities will promote jobs and investment similar to the two casinos operating in neighboring Niagara Falls, Ontario.

One estimate has the casinos generating $115 million a year for the state, of which 20 percent would go to local governments.

The deal calls for the tribe to take over the 153,000-square-foot Niagara Falls Convention Center for $1 a year. If the Legislature approves it, a casino could open on the site as early as next spring, according to a New York Times report.

No site has been announced yet in Buffalo.

The third casino would be built on Seneca land in western New York.

The deal also requires federal approval.