Turning point: Stone helps $yracuse

Jul 22, 2003 3:58 AM

Turning Stone Casino is celebrating its 10th anniversary rejoicing in helping transform poverty-stricken Indian tribe into an economic powerhouse. But not everyone in the upstate New York region was happy at first.

The Buffalo News reported last week that when the casino was first built, some residents formed a grass-roots group called Upstate Citizens for Equality to oppose the Oneidas.

"There’s no question it has had a negative impact," said Scott Peterman, president of the 4,000-member Upstate group. "Property taxes have been going up for years, and now we’re getting socked with record hikes."

The Oneidas have invested more than $600 million in the 450-acre resort complex, located 30 miles east of Syracuse. The casino attracted 450,000 visitors in 1993. Today, with more than 4.2 million customers, it’s one of the state’s top tourist stops.

By the end of 2004, the resort will include gambling space as big as two football fields, along with three championship golf courses, three luxury hotels, a European spa, convention center, cabaret-style showroom and events arena.

According to the Oneidas, the casino injects about $311 million a year into the regional economy.

Good news for NY

A state court judge paved the way for further gambling expansion in New York after upholding legislation from 2001 that permitted the Seneca Nation of Indians to operate up to three casinos in the Buffalo area.

State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Teresi also approved the installation of more than 12,000 slotlike machines at racetracks across New York, including Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs.

Bennett Liebman, a former senior state gaming regulator, said the judge used the recent failure by the high court not to address the broader issue of gaming as "a green light for further gambling in the state."

Air Victorville to LV

The San Bernardino County Sun reports that flights may soon be available to Las Vegas from Victorville, California.

Valley Air Express hopes to launch flights from Southern California Logistics Airport to Las Vegas by mid-August. The Sacramento-based firm is acquiring a nine-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravan turbo-prop plane for the flights.

A marketing survey shows that Las Vegas is the No. 1 destination among cities served by airports within a 200-mile radius of Victorville.

Louisiana on fence

The New Orleans Fair Grounds will wait at least a week to receive state approval to put a slot machine referendum on the Oct. 4 ballot.

The Legislature earlier approved a bill giving the Fair Grounds the right to operate slot machines, provided that the Orleans Parish voters approve. The law authorizes 300 slots immediately and up to 400 in 2004 and 500 in 2005.

The Associated Press reports that if Harrah’s New Orleans casino has winnings exceeding $350 million for any 12-month period, the Fair Grounds track could have a maximum of 700 machines.

Also last week, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approved Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.’s plans for a $325 million casino resort in Lake Charles.

Less hours in Illinois

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that four Illinois casinos, including three from the Chicago area, want to reduce the amount of time they’re open.

The move is in response to the higher state wagering taxes that kicked in on July 1. Hollywood Casino wants to cut its hours of operation from 22 to 18, opening daily from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Around the USA

CAL: The San Miguel Indian Bingo & Casino announced final plans designed to provide $200 million in economic stimulus to San Bernandino...

WASH: Gov. Gary Locke said Washington could follow the lead of other cash-strapped states by asking its Indian tribes to give gambling profits to ease the budget deficit...