Niagara Falls set to ring in 2003 at casino

Dec 2, 2002 11:31 PM

   Niagara Falls! Slowly they turn, step by step, inch by inch”¦

   No, it’s not another Three Stooges movie, but an approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior last Friday that will allow the Seneca Nation to open a casino in the upstate New York resort by the end of the year.

   Neal A McCaleb, assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, told the Buffalo News that a Seneca casino at the Niagara Falls Convention Center will have no adverse environmental impact.

   The casino, set for a New Year’s Eve opening, will create 2,000 permanent jobs along with 1,400 jobs during construction.

   There still remains one roadblock — a lawsuit filed by casino opponents claiming the deal violates the state constitution’s ban on casino gambling.

   According to the environmental assessment, the casino will not increase traffic volume to the point where additional roads or traffic lanes would have to be built.

   McCaleb’s action approves the transfer of 12.8 acres of downtown Niagara Falls, including the convention center site, to the Senecas. Bases for about 2,500 slot machines were recently installed and the machines themselves are expected to be delivered this week.


Florida warms to slots

   The St. Petersburg Times reports in an editorial that the antagonism between the state of Florida and its Indian tribes over gambling rights may be disappearing.

   “That day (Nov.5), the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment to limit classroom sizes,” the newspaper stated. “The outcome prompted Gov. Jeb Bush and some key legislators who have opposed expanding gambling to consider it as an option to help pay for the expensive effort.”

   Florida lawmakers are discussing the legalization of electronic gambling machines at parimutuel sites around the states. The devices, similar to the ones found in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, take anything from 25 cents to a $20 bill and offer payouts that run into five figures.

   The machines have been huge moneymakers for the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes, and are a major part of the “cruises to nowhere” that operate out of Tampa, Miami, Port Canaveral, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and other seaside locales around the state.

   In 1999, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth filed a federal suit against the U.S. Interior Department over new rules that would have enabled Florida’s tribes to offer full casino gambling on reservations without state approval.

   The suit is pending, but the Times believes that that suit is history if the state gets into the gambling machine business.


Emerald up for gaming

   The potential gambling center in the state of Washington could be Emerald Downs racetrack.

   The Seattle Times writes that the racetrack, as early as next month, looks to be destined as a carnival of gaming possibilities based on a new ownership arrangement.

   The Times states that much has to happen before the racetrack becomes a full gaming venue, but there is a definite shift toward bigger and more comprehensive gambling palaces.

   The land under Emerald Downs racetrack is expected to come under tribal ownership in January. The Muckleshoots Indian tribe is already busy with a $30 million outdoor amphitheater, bingo hall, casino and other business interests.

   Saving the Northwest thoroughbred industry was seen as essential to state approval of Emerald Downs, according to the editorial. “The guess back then was that other forms of gambling would follow.”

   The Muckleshoot tribe has emerged as an entertainment powerhouse of the region.

Reno casino re-opens

   The Golden Phoenix Hotel Casino opened last week in Reno with a few glitches.

   The resort, formerly called the Flamingo Reno, opened to a bigger crowd that what was expected.

   “We’ve been waiting for it to open,” said Reno resident Angie Saldana. “They have a lot of machines that I don’t see in other places.”


ALSO: Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is talking with Maryland officials about getting involved through one of the state’s four horse tracks or a tourist destination resort”¦Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson surrendered to police last week in Tallahassee after being arrested on charges of stealing a blank check and receiving nearly $3,500 after it was cashed. McPherson has been kicked off the team.