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COUNCIL OFFERS TO COOPERATE IN SEARCH FOR A CITY CASINO SITE

Buffalo took advantage of the long court battle over a new casino in Cheektowaga by making a sales pitch Tuesday for putting the Indian-owned casino in the city.

Common Council members extended an "olive branch" to the Seneca Nation of Indians by offering in a formal resolution to cooperate with the tribe's search for a casino site in Buffalo.

The Council's push came just weeks after Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr. confirmed the nation is rethinking its preferred location in Cheektowaga, citing the long legal fight over the site.

"This is intended to send a message, extend an olive branch," Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis said of his measure offering to work with the Seneca Nation.

Davis said the Council needs to show its support for a Seneca casino in Buffalo because the Seneca Nation has been at odds with city and county leaders over a location.

The most public of those disputes centered on County Executive Joel A. Giambra's opposition to selling the Buffalo Convention Center, rejecting the Senecas' bid for the site, saying he wanted to keep the county in the convention business.

"The Senecas don't want to be talked at," said Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana. "They want to be talked with."

Despite reservations about the financial benefits to the city, the Council approved a measure offering to "work cooperatively" with the Senecas on finding a suitable site for a casino in Buffalo.

Under the terms of the Senecas' agreement with the state, the Senecas have until December to have an Erie County casino "under construction," or they lose the right to develop a third gambling operation.

While Snyder declined to comment on possible sites, there has been speculation that the Senecas could be considering the city's outer harbor, the site of an ambitious $750 million development.

Snyder also said that given Erie County's current fiscal crisis, the county might reconsider its opposition to reusing the convention center.

Other city sites that have been floated for a casino range from the Statler Towers and DL&W Terminal to the vacant Webster Block and Central Terminal.

The Council, in another stab at attracting a major downtown development, approved a measure supporting a new Buffalo Bills football stadium downtown.

"This offers Buffalo an opportunity to get the dialogue started," said Masten Council Member Antoine Thompson. "With all these things happening downtown, it's time for us to be proactive about the Buffalo Bills."

The Bills' 15-year lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park is to expire in about seven years.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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