NIAGARA FALLS -- When it comes to jobs in the casino game on the Niagara Frontier, the Americans are gaining on the Canadians.
The two casinos on the Ontario side of the Niagara River -- Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort -- have a total of 5,000 employees, while the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel on the New York side has just under 3,000 employees.
The Seneca casino has increased its work force by 500 in the past two years, while the two casinos in Niagara Falls, Ont., laid off 104 employees last fall.
If and when the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opens in the Cobblestone District in downtown Buffalo in December, it will emply 1,000 people.
The Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamanca employs 1,060 people, with another 450 to be added when the hotel opens in March.
"We are a 2 4/7 operation, and we're constantly hiring," said Philip J. Pantano, public relations manager for the Seneca Gaming Corp., owner of the casinos on the American side.
On both sides of the border, the jobs cover a varied range of positions, including high-level management, dealers, security personnel, retail, restaurant and hotel staff.
The Seneca Nation of Indians is currently using 24 acres of the 50 acres it owns in downtown Niagara Falls under its agreement with New York State.
"We're working on finalizing a master plan for the entire use of the property," Pantano said. "By the time we complete all of our development in downtown Niagara Falls, we will employ 5,000 people."
The layoffs at the casinos in Niagara Falls, Ont., were a matter of trimming the fat, gambling officials in Canada said. "Many of the those jobs were superfluous because we overstaffed when we opened Fallsview," said Teresa Roncon, senior public relations manager for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which owns the casinos.
Rumors of additional layoffs in Niagara Falls, Ont., spread after a member of the provincial government criticized the gambling corporation for the October job cuts.
"This organization has already laid off 104 employees at a time when the Niagara region is being hurt by job losses in the auto parts industry and other manufacturing sectors," said Peter Kormos, a New Democratic Party member who represents Niagara Center in the provincial government.
"Ontario Lottery and Gaming has a mandate to take community economic conditions into account before they take such actions," he said.
Management officials at the two casinos countered by calling the rumors of more layoffs "absolutely false." They said there will be no further job cuts.
"Our properties are doing well, and numbers are better than expected," said casino spokesman Greg Medulun.
The gambling corporation, which owns 26 casinos and slot facilities in Ontario, also let 329 people go from its Casino Windsor last July. That facility in southwestern Ontario on the Michigan border still has 3,440 employees.
Casino Windsor fell victim to several factors, Roncon said, including a new provincewide law banning smoking indoors; a falling Canadian dollar; confusion over pending identification changes at the border; and competition from three casinos in nearby Detroit.
Undaunted, however, the provincial gambling corporation is going ahead with a $340 million (U.S.) expansion of its Casino Windsor that will include a new 22-story hotel tower and 5,000-seat entertainment center.
The first phase, a six-level rotunda, two new restaurants and bars, opened last month.
Moreover, Casino Windsor will be renamed Caesars Windsor in early 2008 after a recent licensing agreement between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and Caesar's World Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Harrah's Operating Co.
For more on the region's gambling industry, See today's Business Prospectus