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Seneca Gaming's profits up 1 percent in quarter

Seneca Gaming Corp.'s profits inched up by 1 percent during the final three months of last year as lower interest expenses offset increased spending on promotions.

Seneca Gaming's profits improved to $21.3 million from $21.1 million a year ago as the casino operator absorbed $3 million in pre-opening costs as its 604-room hotel at its Niagara Falls gaming center had a partial opening in December.

The company's revenues grew by 1 percent to $108.9 million during the quarter that ended on Dec. 31, compared with $107.9 million a year earlier.

Seneca Gaming's gaming revenue grew by 6 percent to $110 million, with John Pasqualoni, the company's president, saying that activity at its Niagara Falls casino has increased since the partial opening of the new hotel on Dec. 15.

But the company's revenues were hurt because it also had $15.6 million in promotional allowances, up more than $5 million from a year ago.

At the same time, the company slashed its interest expenses by 35 percent after paying off ahead of schedule an $80 million construction loan that carried an interest rate of nearly 30 percent.

The company also spent $58.7 million on construction projects during the quarter, including $50.8 million on the hotel project and $1.7 million toward the resort hotel Seneca Gaming is building at the Seneca Allegany Casino. The first two floors of that hotel are scheduled to open by Oct. 22.

Over the rest of the year, Seneca Gaming expects to expand its marketing and advertising efforts to target more mid-to-high-end gaming patrons, along with additional conference business and overnight guests, Pasqualoni said.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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