The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino made an inauspicious start in July 2007, with 133 slot machines inside a 5,000-square-foot pre-fab metal building.
It has come a long way since then.
Now, a $40 million expansion will bring the number of slot machines to over 1,100, along with 32 table games.
The gambling complex now covers 124,000 square feet – the equivalent of two football fields. After 10 years, including the four years since the permanent casino opened in August 2013, the Seneca Nation of Indians likes its progress in the Cobblestone District.
"You look back to what was here 10 years ago, and there was nothing beside the grain towers," said Kevin Seneca, vice chairman of the Seneca Gaming Corp.'s board of directors. "The Inner Harbor was an industrial district. The arena was basically it. Now, I think it's a win-win for Buffalo and Western New York."
Most of the casino's estimated 3 million visitors come from a 60-mile radius, including Canada, Seneca said. Some visitors come while in Buffalo to attend an event at KeyBank Center or other attraction.
The latest expansion adds 300 permanent jobs – bringing the total to 800 – on the nine acres of sovereign Seneca Nation land. In addition, the expansion project created 440 construction jobs, officials said.
Here are the changes:
A 10-by-20 foot video screen greets visitors in the new entrance. The screen presents updates on the casino and includes information on the Seneca Nation.
A smoke-free room with 140 slot machines is directly off the new entrance.
"This has been something that has been asked for by patrons since we opened," said Joanne Israel, the casino's general manager.
More slot machines
The casino added 250 new slot machines to the main gambling floor.
A new B Lo Bar makes it easier for people to get drinks.
The new WD Bar and Grille steakhouse offers a second-floor view of grain elevators, including General Mills, and of downtown. An outdoor patio includes two gas-fired fire pits.
The 100-seat restaurant, decorated in muted colors with copper-tiled pillars, opens for dinner at 5 p.m. seven nights a week.
Prices will raise some eyebrows.
Prime rib eye and New York strip steaks cost $65. Side orders, such as smashed red potatoes, jumbo asparagus and smoked gouda macaroni and cheese, range from $7 to $10 each. Lobster costs $52, while burgers are $19 or $26.
New carpeting and additional fixtures will spruce up the facility when installed.
"This expansion has really revitalized the property," Israel said. "After 10 years, we're still growing, and we're very excited about that."
Exit 6, a high-end gift shop, will open soon.
The Creek, a casual, sit-down restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the first floor, will also open.
The High Limit gambling area – to be decorated with "high-end fixtures" – will open with 70 slot machines and four table games.
Alphonso Payne likes the changes.
"I love it," Payne said. "I'm glad it's bigger, I'm glad there are more games, and it looks a lot better.'
Payne said he spends about three hours a day at Buffalo Creek.
He hears the steak at WD tastes "really good," and looks forward to finding out for himself.
Kevin McCourt, playing the slots with his wife, likes the additional machines and looks forward to the expansion's completion.
The casino has come quite a ways from the pre-fabbed building it started out in, he said.
"It looks beautiful," said McCourt, who comes to Buffalo Creek every two weeks with his wife. "I can't wait until it's totally open."
The restaurant, he said, was out of his league price-wise, "unless I get comp points."
Kelley Widmer of West Seneca wasn't keen on a lot of the new slot machines.
"I don't like all of these big fancy machines," she said. "I'm kind of an old-time gambler, if you know what I mean, but I think it will draw people in."
Widmer said she comes to the casino with her husband "maybe once a week – probably more than I should."
She vaped while playing, but said she wouldn't hesitate to hit the slot machines in the new smoke-free room.
"If I think that the machines might be good in there, I'll put this sucker away and I'll be in there," Widmer said, laughing.
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