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No moss gathering on rolling stone of gaming

Oct 29, 2002 4:36 AM

   There may be a few honeymooners headed to Niagara Falls from Las Vegas this week, but I doubt there will be any mass exodus of casino workers despite a call for 2,000 dealers, slot attendants, beverage servers and security and maintenance staff at the new Seneca Indian casino scheduled to open in the U.S. Falls on New Year’s Eve.

   Michael Brown, the gaming vet who now is president of Seneca Niagara Falls Gaming Corporation, says his staff of 150 will have to train the 2,000 between now and the end of the year, to man the convention center now being transformed into a casino.

   Brown’s entry-level salaries for non-management positions begin at $18,000, management jobs will pay between $35,000 and $75,000 and other salaries will range between $28,000 and $32,000. Some 900 applications have been processed already, with only 80 Senecas so far.

   Other tribes in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, meanwhile, are protesting the Seneca casino, and some local elected officials are in Washington trying to get the Department of the Interior to stop the whole project. A dispute also broke out between the city and the casino over parking lot space but the odds are that Brown will open his venture on schedule. If you’re interested in more details, the Senecas have a Web site,

   There are other skirmishes in New York, between the state’s racetracks and the lottery division handling slots at the tracks. The tracks are happy to get the VLTs, but unhappy with their twelve and one-half percent share.

   The lottery division says that’s between the tracks and the legislature, and has moved ahead to buy 13,000 slots from International Game Technology, Bally Gaming Systems, Sierra Design Group in Nevada, and Spielo USA out of New Brunswick, Canada.

   At least one track operator — Dennis Lang of Buffalo Raceway — says that if the track share is not increased his track will pass up VLTs next spring, which is the earliest the machines will be available. The tracks want at least a 20% share of revenues to make the idea viable, since under the present arrangement they must pay virtually all expenses of setting up the slots operation, including construction.

   While this is going on in New York, a Wild West show is underway in Arizona, where the state’s next governor could be elected by Arizona’s Indians, who represent 10% of the electorate.

   The tribes have two propositions on next month’s ballot, and there is a third, sponsored by the state’s dog and horse tracks, that would expand slots to the tracks. Theoretically, all three could pass if they receive more yes votes than no, which would send the issue to the courts. Meanwhile, the governor’s race could hinge on the Indian vote.

   Finally, on the checkered map of interesting developments, there is Newark, New Jersey, where the overwhelming winner in a sports tug-of-war appears to be the YankeeNets sports organization. Newark is one of America’s poorest large cities, but it plans to build an ambitious new sports arena that its mayor says, rather expansively, “will be the greatest economic engine ever in the city.”

   Originally the deal was great for Newark, with others picking up the bill, including the YankeeNets who were in for 67% of the cost. The city council, desperate to wrest the arena from the Meadowlands sports complex, recently approved a deal, however, that is the sweetest this side of Equal for the YankeeNets. As now structured, the YankeeNets will pick up only 37% of the cost, and can recoup that entire $130 million before the first game is ever played in the arena, which is scheduled to open in 2005. Under the plan as it stands, their $12.5 million annual rent most likely will be recouped entirely by credits from the city, and the YankeeNets will keep every penny of money from ticket sales, luxury boxes, naming of the arena (the rights for which could cover their entire $130 million investment) and every hot dog, soft drink, and t-shirt sold in the building.

   Nice work if you can get it, and it looks like the YankeeNets have.