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With Convention Center Out, New Casino Site Sought

Erie County Executive Joel Giambra
Erie County Executive Joel Giambra

By Eileen Buckley & Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Seneca Nation of Indians will need to select a new site for a Buffalo casino. Wednesday, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said the Buffalo Convention Center is not an option for a casino.

Giambra told members of the Seneca Nation of Indians during a high level meeting in City Hall that the Convention Center is "off the table" as a casino site.

"Right now the only concern for the Senecas is to get a casino up and running. That to me is not the most important thing," Giambra said. "The most important thing is to have a development plan, one make that sense and right now the Convention Center just doesn't make sense."

Giambra says the Convention Center generates up to $75 million in revenues and is too successful to disrupt.

Giambra suggested giving up the casino Buffalo is entitled to for a second casino in Niagara Falls, with the revenue to be shared by both counties.

But Cyrus Schindler, a Seneca Tribal Council member and chairman of the Seneca Nation Falls Gaming Corporation board, emerged from the meeting saying "anything is still possible."

Schinder says it's now up to the Tribal Council to approve a new site location. But Schindler refused to name specific sites for a Buffalo casino.

Mayor Masiello agreed the Convention Center is "not a viable site." Masiello and the Senecas held preliminary discussions Wednesday on alternative sites.

"The Statler has been a site that's always been talked about," Masiello said. "Memorial Auditorium has been talked about, and there are other sites that perhaps have not been talked about."

The Central Terminal has also been mentioned as a potential site, but the Mayor says he would prefer a casino in Downtown Buffalo. And Schindler says the terminal would cost the Seneca's too much to renovate.

"The cost of renovating a historic building, it would be nice," Schindler said. "But I have to look at dollars and cents for the Seneca Nation."

Still, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation is offering to sell the historic landmark to the Senecas for just $1 if they promise to fully restore it. Russell Pawlak heads the corporation. Click the "listen" icon above to hear his interview with WBFO's Joyce Kryszak.

Masiello said Wednesday's talks were "fruitful."

"What I wanted to make very clear to them is just because the Convention Center is off the table, don't walk away from casino gaming in downtown Buffalo," Masiello said. "We still think it can work, and we still want it to work."

Masiello said what is clear is the Seneca's want to open a casino that provides ample parking.