While area gas station owners and politicians voiced concerns that the Seneca Nation of Indians would undercut gas prices at the recently opened gas station near the Seneca Niagara Casino, so far it hasn’t happened.
Stations owned by Native Americans and located on reservations don’t have to pay taxes, which can allow them to sell gasoline at substantially cheaper prices than white owned stations.
When they were granted 50 acres of prime downtown real estate and the city’s former convention center in which to open a casino in 2002, Seneca leaders said they had no plans to open a gas station / smoke shop on the property.
But the state neglected to get that in writing as part of the compact.
Then-Governor George Pataki said at the time that putting a 50 acre mini reservation in the heart of the city’s tourist district would create jobs, boost tourism and result in significant spin-off business activity in the neighborhoods adjacent to the casino.
The giveaway also allowed Mr. Pataki to resolve a longstanding lawsuit by the Senecas against the state in which the tribe argued that the 1815 sale of Grand Island by the tribe to the state had been illegal.
When the tribe opened the Seneca One Stop gas station and smoke shop last December, over the objections of city leaders, local gas station and store owners and the New York Association of Convenience Stores, some feared the worst.
But the Senecas asserted their right to do whatever they wanted.
“Our sovereignty, and the control we have over all Seneca lands, provides us the right to create economic opportunities on our territories,” Seneca President Todd Gates said when the One Stop opened. “We will continue to invest and develop all of our sovereign territories, here in Niagara as well as Buffalo Creek, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Oil Spring, because it is our responsibility to the Seneca people to grow our economy and to keep our Nation strong.”
Today, the One Stop is selling gas for $2.35 a gallon, a dime less than the $2.45 charged by some white owned stations here, but more than the $2.26 to $2.29 a gallon price available in North Tonawanda, and about equal to the $2.38 to $2.39 charged by Niagara Falls stations such as Delta Sonic on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the Gulf station on Buffalo Avenue in LaSalle or the Sunoco at Packer and Porter roads.
Of course, since the white owned stations have to pay taxes, the profit margin is much larger for the Senecas.