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Pataki Non-Committal on Casino Location

By Joyce Kryszak

Albany, NY – At least for now, Governor George Pataki will not lobby the federal government opposing a Seneca Casino in Cheektowaga. County Executive Joel Giambra and Mayor Anthony Masiello met with the Governor in Albany Tuesday, pleading their case for the casino to be placed in Buffalo.

It wasn't exactly the answer they wanted to hear. But both Giambra and Masiello say the meeting went well. And they are still holding out hope.

"The Governor made it very clear that he thinks Buffalo is the preferred site," said Masiello.

"The Governor said himself that there are still viable sites in Buffalo that should be pursued," said Giambra.

The bad news for Giambra and Masiello is that the Governor says the Seneca's must agree with that. Pataki told them that all the parties need to go back to the table. And Masiello says consensus is the only position Pataki will support.

"I think the Governor believes that reaching consenus is in the best interest of everyone. There's less division, less confrontation, and we all need each other," said Masiello. "He was emphatic that while he prefers Buffalo we should get back to the table and talk about sites in Buffalo so we can reach an understanding and an agreement with the Senecas. He emphasized that the Senecas need to be part of that decision and only good things can happen when we have a united front."

Giambra says there are two Buffalo sites he believes will appeal to the Senecas - the Aud and the NFTA waterfront property. Giambra says he's not worried about a bidding war, with both Cheektowaga and Buffalo willing to give away the store to win over the Senecas.

And he says it's too early to talk about the next step should negotiations for a Buffalo site fail.

"I think the Senecas are as much in need of support from the County Executive, the Mayor, the Governor...it's a two-way street here," said Giambra. "I don't see anybody having an upper hand or anybody trying to force anybody to do anything against their will. What we need to do is figure out what makes the most sense for the Senecas and for the greater Western New York, Erie County community.

The Senecas have repeatedly said their research shows a site near the airport would be best for the casino. But Giambra and Masiello say they are hopeful, that with at least some support from the Governor, that the Senecas can be pursuaded to look to the city.