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Gaming Take Drops at Indian Casinos,
But Senecas Say Their Revenues Grew

By Tony Farina

A Palace for Losers: In order to pay for and maintain their magnificent casino and hotel property, the Senecas will have to continue to attract a lot of losers.
Niagara Falls tops the list of losers who became associated with

More casinos and gambling opportunities could be the reason for the decline in gambling revenues at New York’s eight Indian-run facilities in 2011 which were highlighted in the Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry Report released last week.

But that’s not the case for the three Seneca-run casinos in Western New York—including Niagara Falls—according to a statement from the Seneca Gaming Corporation which said “revenues solidly grew” in 2011, blaming the inconsistency on the fact they were not contacted “before the initial round of stories on the subject.”

According to the Indian Gaming Industry Report, the casinos run by the three tribes in New York, including the Senecas, posted revenue of $921 million for 2011, down about three percent from 2010. But in a brief email statement to the Niagara Falls Reporter, the Seneca Gaming Corporation had this to say in response: “Seneca Gaming Corporation does not publish its financial results and our actual results are tangibly different from this unsubstantiated report. The reality is that the Corporation solidly grew revenues in 2011 verses 2010.”

Across the nation, Indian casinos brought in revenues of $27.4 billion, an increase of roughly three percent. The Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry Report said the revenue decline in New York’s eight casinos was the largest decrease in the nation among Indian-run casinos. According to the report, it was the third straight year that Indian gaming revenue dropped in the state, and it cited as reasons for declines in New York and Connecticut “increased competition in this region across the Indian gaming, commercial casino, and racino segments.” Revenues at racetrack racinos continued to grow, bringing in nearly $1.3 billion.

At present in New York, casinos can only operate on Indian land but that could change if the State Legislature approves expansion of gambling again this year, meaning it could go before voters in November and would allow casinos on non-Indian land. Gov. Andrew Cuomo favors expansion that would allow as many as seven non-Indian casinos, starting with three (maybe four counting a new casino in Niagara Falls), all upstate.

The fight between the Seneca Nation and the state over gaming rights has hurt the three local host cities for the Seneca casinos, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca, with the Cataract City taking the worst of it, down more than $60 million in casino revenue over the last three years. It has led to belt-tightening by the Niagara Falls City Council triggering sharp political division between the majority on the council and the administration of Mayor Paul Dyster over how to cope with the shortfall and still maintain vital services and quality of life. And, most importantly according to lawmakers, protecting against tax increases.

Gov. Cuomo late last month forwarded $2.5 million to Salamanca to help that city deal with the revenue shortfall from the missing casino funds, but Niagara Falls so far has only been offered a spin-up of aid from the State Power Authority which many, including the council majority, see as a loser for the city in the long run since there is no assurance Niagara Falls will receive the casino revenue it is due and be able to pay back the spin-up and protect long-term payments from the Power Authority going forward.

All the gaming talk comes as the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., fears his side is losing business to the tax-free nation on the American side (i.e. Seneca Casino) and threatening the continued success of the two casinos north of the border which have been taking a beating. And the two casinos north of the border pay taxes to the government and are integral pieces of the success story that has materialized on the other side of the river.

Just how much the Seneca Casino on the American side is pulling in is not certain, as Seneca Gaming will not release any numbers. But while the two other tribes in New York are losing revenue, Seneca Gaming said their revenues “solidly grew,” although they are not giving the Cataract City any of the revenue that is owed under the compact.

The binding arbitration talks between the Senecas and the state are continuing, however there are not very many encouraging signs that any negotiated agreement is near. In fact, Gov. Cuomo’s talk of putting another casino into Niagara Falls is not a signal that progress is being made; it rather suggests frustration by the governor on how the talks are proceeding.



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

Mar05 , 2013