<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>

Casino Operators Eye Falls

By Frank Parlato

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is said to be eyeing Niagara Falls. If he comes to town, this place won't ever be the same.
They say NFR Executive Roger Trevino knows everybody from heaven to earth. Trevino (left) with Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Is Trevino privately meeting with gaming executives from Las Vegas?

As the ongoing dispute between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Senecas drags on, and with news accounts on both sides of the bridge publishing a wide assortment of gaming stories, sources say casino operators, designers, vendors and architects have been visiting Niagara Falls within the past month, including Las Vegas Sands magnate Sheldon Adelson, in preparation for the hoped-for day when Niagara Falls, N. Y., will have an American casino, or maybe two.

On top of that, Niagara Falls Redevelopment President Anthony Bergamo and NFR Executive Roger Trevino have had discussions with entertainment executives lately about the viability of building an entertainment venue to host concerts, boxing matches and convention events.

The city of Niagara Falls lost its convention center when the state gave the sovereign Senecas the building to convert into a casino.

NFR owns more than 100 acres of prime downtown land adjacent to the Seneca's 50 acre tax free land.

Presently, the arbitration process between the Senecas and the state has spokespeople on both sides publicly talking in respectful tones, but both sides are feeling some heat.

The Seneca Nation will not want the state to build a casino in Niagara Falls, for it would take business away from their present casino.

In an ideal Seneca world, the Senecas would naturally prefer to continue to have a gaming monopoly in this region and continue to operate their "grind" style casino, so-called because they "grind" out small amounts of money from regular losers who are, for the most part, regional patrons.

If Cuomo were to establish equal rights for New Yorkers with the Senecas, the Senecas' gaming days might be numbered.

Should Cuomo pave the way for the establishment of an American-owned casino in Niagara Falls, the Senecas would be faced with either investing in and creating a world class destination, or try to compete against a first-class American-owned casino with their shanty casino and hope they can still attract the local losers who now form the base of their lucrative enterprise.

For Cuomo's part, he would perhaps prefer a settlement with the Senecas that keeps Niagara Falls residents on a decidedly lower legal status than the Senecas, while permitting other cities in upstate New York to have the right to operate a casino.

In Niagara Falls, only someone born a Seneca can operate gaming.

The compact that New York State created in 2002 with the Senecas confers superior legal rights to Senecas over Americans, allowing a monopoly on gaming and tax free status on all other businesses they establish on 50 acres in the middle of downtown Niagara Falls.

If for no other reason than that the people of Niagara Falls are of little political value to a New York City-centric Cuomo, and the city itself is of no value to him except as a negotiating pawn in the Seneca dispute, and, of course, as an ATM machine for New York City interests, a settlement with the Senecas is not necessary to Cuomo.

It might, however, go a tiny distance towards plugging the massive state budget gap.

Meanwhile, with talk of a control board to take over the financial reins from uber-spending Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, some are hoping that Cuomo successfully institutes state legislative gaming in Niagara Falls, if for no other reason than to let the Senecas know who is running the show in New York State gaming circles.

The threat of it might get the Senecas to pay the $60 million now due Niagara Falls as a host city.

Despite the Senecas' tax-free status that gives them an almost insurmountable edge over the average local business person operating in Niagara Falls, if big gaming operators come to town and build a first-class operation, it would soon dwarf the feeble efforts of the Senecas' rinky dink, locals-driven casino.

The Senecas cheaply-erected casino, built inside the shell of the Niagara Falls Convention Center (and not a newly constructed casino, as they originally promised), wouldn't even get a notice in Las Vegas.

In any event, before Gov. George Pataki sold out the town to the Senecas, when there was talk about Americans running their own gaming operations and making the city of Niagara Falls wealthy, big gaming operators, such as Harrah's, Bally's and MGM, visited the town.

We are seeing a number of familiar faces again in the region.

One only need look at the increased traffic of privately chartered jets tied to casino operators that have recently landed at the Niagara Falls Airport and take a peek at who is getting off and on to know that people of importance are visiting here.

And it is not just to see the Falls in the dead of winter.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar12 , 2013