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Seneca Gaming's net revenues fall $11.4 million in quarter

Seneca Gaming Corp. was dealt a bad hand by the economy and weather in January, leading to an $11.4 million drop in net revenues in its first quarter.

The Seneca Nation of Indians' gambling corporation Tuesday reported that net revenues totaled $138.7 million for the first quarter of its 2009 fiscal year, which ended Dec. 31, 2008. That compares to $150.2 million in the prior year -- a decline of about 7.6 percent.

The three-month period saw drops in both gaming and hospitality revenues at its three Western New York casino and hotel facilities. Gaming revenue dropped $13 million, or 8.7 percent,to $137 million from $150 million.

Table games saw the greatest percentage tumble -- 16.5 percent -- with net table gaming profits declining $3 million, to $15.2 million from $18.3 million. Table game "drop," the amount of money wagered by players fell to $92.3 million from $110.9 million.

Net slot machine revenues, which comprise the largest segment of gaming revenues, were off by 6.7 percent, to $111 million from $119 million. Slot "handle," the amount of money played in the corporation's slot machines, dropped $124 million in the quarter, to $1.47 billion from $1.56 billion.

Seneca Gaming President and Chief Executive Brain Hansberry said that despite the declines, the corporation is continuing to hold its own.

"I believe [Seneca Gaming] will continue to demonstrate its ability to navigate through uncertain economic times and mitigate the effects of the recession the entire country is currently experiencing," Hansberry said in a statement.

Seneca Gaming operates Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel in Niagara Falls, Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel in Salamanca, and Seneca Buffalo Creek slots-only casino in Buffalo.

The unfavorable fiscal results come on the heels of efforts by Seneca Gaming to cut operating expenses, including the December layoff of more than 200 employees and a halt in construction of its planned $333 million permanent casino and hotel in Buffalo.

Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder, who also serves as chairman of the Seneca Gaming board of directors, said the gaming corporation's comparatively strong results reflect its ability to adapt to turbulent economic conditions.

"We are pleased with the measures implemented by [Seneca Gaming] over the last 18 months to prepare for, and adapt to, the onset of difficult economic times," Snyder said.

The nation's gaming industry has been particularly hard hit by the recessionary economy, with several private and Indian gaming companies announcing huge losses and shelved expansion projects.

On Tuesday, Atlantic City-based Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for Chapter 11 protection after failing to reach a new deal with bondholders to restructure $1.25 billion in debt.

Founder Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka resigned from the company's board last week, after growing frustrated with bondholders. Trump said the bondholders had rejected his offer to buy the company and that he would consider legal action to remove his name from its three casinos in Atlantic City.

This marks the third time the Trump gaming company has gone into bankruptcy.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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