The newly elected president of the Seneca Nation of Indians wants to build a casino in Erie County, but probably not in Buffalo.
Barry E. Snyder Sr., who will begin his two-year term Tuesday, says the city's poor economy and image would be impediments to attracting gamblers from outside the region.
"The economics of Buffalo are not the best in the world, and we're asking people to travel to this area," Snyder said. "We want people to come to a Seneca casino, not a Buffalo casino."
Snyder favors sticking with the Tribal Council's intentions to build a casino in Cheektowaga because marketing studies have determined a Las Vegas-style gaming facility there would generate more revenue than in Buffalo.
Explaining that he has to protect the financial interest of the 7,200-member Seneca Nation, Snyder said a casino in adjacent Cheektowaga would produce economic benefits for the city.
"I'm not saying Buffalo is bad or completely off the table," he said. "Buffalo people can come and work at the casino. They can go to our casino in Niagara Falls and work there, too."
But job seekers will have to wait awhile to fill out applications for a Seneca casino anywhere in Erie County, according to Snyder. He listed his top priorities as finishing projects at the casinos in the Falls and Salamanca.
"We're still committed to Erie County, but we have a lot of investment in the other two casinos, and that's our main area of concentration. We want to bring them up to par," he said.
The Senecas are building a 26-story hotel at the Niagara Falls casino and a resort at the Salamanca casino, which is on the tribe's Allegany Reservation.
Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said Thursday he hopes to meet with Snyder soon and share with him reasons why downtown would be a suitable location.
"The medical campus is bringing highly paid and highly educated people to our city every day. New businesses are opening up in our downtown community, and downtown housing has taken off as a place to live," Masiello said.
In a brief phone conversation Wednesday, the mayor congratulated Snyder on his election victory Tuesday. Snyder says he and the mayor respect each other.
Snyder has said he ultimately wants a Seneca to replace Mickey Brown as head of Seneca Gaming Corp., which oversees the tribe's gambling operations.
As he prepares to begin his third term as president, Snyder said he wants to direct more gambling profits to the nation's members by way of education, health and housing programs.
He also intends to make good on recently approved increases in annual annuities paid to every member of the tribe. Last month, he successfully sponsored a Tribal Council resolution increasing annuities to $3,000 this year from $1,500 last year.
The amount will increase to $4,500 in the 2005 fiscal year and to $6,000 in the following year.
Offering his thanks to the Seneca people for electing him, Snyder said: "It's an honor, and I'm going to do the damn best job I can. They know my commitment to them."