Seneca Gaming Corp. executives Thursday said they're moving "full speed" ahead toward opening a casino in Buffalo's Cobblestone District but expressed frustration that the state has not done more to help defend legal challenges to the venture.
The state collects millions of dollars in slots revenue from existing Seneca casinos in Niagara Falls and Salamanca, executives pointed out during a New York Gaming Summit in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.
"I think there's been very little outreach from the new governor with respect to what's happening [in Buffalo]," said Barry W. Brandon, Seneca Gaming senior vice president and general counsel. "From the nation's perspective, you're writing checks to the tune of $80 [million], $90 million and sending it to someone. You're kind of asking, 'What is it you're doing to continue to warrant those types of payments?' "
Seneca executives reacted to the lawsuits and outlined plans to expand their other two casinos during a gathering that focused on a range of statewide gambling issues.
Brandon and Seneca representatives spent nearly an hour detailing plans to become one of the region's top private employers and answering questions about litigation that has delayed the opening of a completed temporary casino with 125 slot machines in Buffalo.
A group that is fighting the Buffalo casino last week filed a notice of appeal with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to declare that casino gambling cannot be legally conducted in Buffalo.
Brandon downplayed the legal challenge and questioned why opponents have spent about $1 million "trying to stop economic development in an economically depressed area."
In Niagara Falls, Seneca Gaming hopes to break ground on a master plan to expand its flagship casino by 2009. That could include building housing outside of the Senecas' territory geared toward casino employees and fully using 50 acres of downtown land promised to the Seneca Nation in its 2002 gaming compact with the state.
Barry Snyder Sr., chairman of Seneca Gaming, said the expansion plan for Niagara Falls is undergoing a review by the Seneca Tribal Council and corporation directors before it will be released publicly.
"We hope to create a resort and environment that will rival any other casino in the country and produce a level of investment that the local area has not seen in generations," he said.
He expects Seneca Gaming Corp.'s employment to reach 8,000 to 10,000 people if the three casinos are fully built.
Seneca Gaming also has revamped marketing efforts to target cities that include New York, Rochester, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and has hired a Hong Kong specialist to attract more customers from Asia, said Senior Vice President of Marketing Robert E. Victoria.