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Seneca Gaming executive says $1.7 million marketing target for Buffalo casino will be met

Seneca Gaming Corp. officials said Monday that they are working on a marketing campaign that will comply with a 2006 agreement with the city of Buffalo, but not all of the road improvements called for in the agreement will happen.

The gaming corporation’s agreement with the city allowed it to buy Fulton Street to make way for Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, but it came with benchmarks for hiring, marketing and infrastructure improvements. A Buffalo News analysis in March found the corporation has lived up to some aspects of the agreement, but not all, and the city has taken no formal steps to enforce it.

The casino executives said the permanent casino that opened last year is smaller than the one originally envisioned. Efforts are being made to make the casino blend in with the neighborhood, and that includes serving locally made food and beverages.

“Yes, it is different, but we believe it is much more sustainable,” Seneca Gaming Corp. President and CEO Catherine Walker said in a meeting with The News’ editorial board.

A major piece of the agreement includes spending $1.7 million annually on marketing and to coordinate marketing efforts with Visit Buffalo Niagara.

The corporation is working with the regional tourism agency to craft a marketing plan and will certify to the city that at least $1.7 million was spent to market the Buffalo casino, as the 2006 agreement requires, Walker said.

“What we’re in the process of doing is putting together a specific agreement that will outline exactly what we’re going to do, what the time-frame is for those commitments, and also what the dollar amounts are,” Walker said.

Walker did not say how much the corporation has spent to market Buffalo Creek, but said the entire corporation spends $160 million every year to market its three casinos.

The agreement also called for infrastructure improvements around the casino, located at Michigan Avenue and Perry Street. Some, such as a $700,000 stormwater retention system project, have been completed. But others, including installation of two new traffic signals and paving of Chicago Street, have not.

“The traffic improvements that have been done were in tune with the building that we built,” said Robert Chamberlain, senior vice president of design and construction. “If you implemented some of the changes that were contemplated in the original project, you’d actually have traffic issues. You don’t change a traffic signal if you don’t have the traffic that drives that signalization to change.”

The agreement calls for an investment of $5 million to $7 million in infrastructure, and between $4.5 million and $5 million has been spent, Chamberlain said.

The casino employs 490 full- and part-time employees, and has 45 openings, Walker said.

The 2006 agreement called for 1,000 jobs.