A new report from the Seneca Gaming Corp. on efforts to market its Buffalo casino through such things as billboards on the Niagara Thruway and a banner on the building are not enough for one Common Council member, who is urging the city to end the agreement that allowed the casino to be built.
Catherine Walker, the gambling corporation’s president and CEO, sent an update to Mayor Byron W. Brown on its activities marketing the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in the last year, and said the corporation is “very proud of what we collectively have accomplished.”
But Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said the activities do not live up to the 2006 agreement between the city and the Seneca Nation of Indians.
“I consider it insulting to this body, what they have filed, compared to what they agreed to,” he said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.
The gambling corporation maintains that an economic downturn has prevented it from building what initially was envisioned. The casino employs 66 people, though the agreement states that the corporation commits to hiring “approximately 1,000 people.”
In responding to LoCurto’s comments, Walker said in a statement that the gambling corporation is funding beautification projects in the neighborhood and that a new, permanent casino comes at a time of renewed activity at the inner harbor.
“Now, more than ever, a fully developed Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino can serve as foundation for the growing tourism and recreation sectors which we all hope will be a catalyst in downtown Buffalo for years to come,” she stated.
The casino’s marketing efforts include sending emails, with “almost 50 percent” going to people who live more than 10 miles away; signing up players’ club members, about 9 percent of whom live in Canada; and increased advertising in Niagara Falls, Ont. The casino’s efforts also include giving turkeys and hams to members of its database, redesigning its website to include other area attractions and developing applications for mobile phones.
Work on a $130 million permanent casino has begun at Michigan and Perry streets, and the gambling corporation expects it to be operational next year.
The new facility is scaled back from what was initially proposed but takes into consideration the desire of the neighbors, Walker said.
The new casino will replace a temporary metal building at the same site, and the casino expects its annual visitors to grow from 800,000 to 3.5 million.
The gambling corporation notes that the percentages of women, minorities and Buffalo residents among its total employees has exceeded the agreement’s targets. The casino’s employees are 55 percent minority, compared with a goal of at least 25 percent; 53 percent women, compared with a goal of at least 8 percent; and 56 percent city residents, compared with a goal of 50 percent.
Lawmakers are expected to discuss LoCurto’s resolution to end the agreement during an executive session on Tuesday.
In September, Brown said any move to cut off water and sewer services, as LoCurto is proposing, is premature.
The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is also the subject of a lawsuit brought by a group of citizens.
In other action Tuesday, the Council:
• Approved a new agreement between the city and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency governing a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, which has not been released.
• Awarded a $2.9 million contract to Concrete Applied Technologies Corp., of Alden, for a makeover of Ellicott Street between Goodell and Best streets, near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The street will be changed from one-way to two-way traffic and undergo a total reconstruction, which includes paving, curbs, sidewalks and energy-saving lighting. The project is expected to start in the spring, and 95 percent of its cost will be reimbursed with federal highway funds.
• Voted to hire EB Jacobs, LLC, of State College, Pa., at a cost of no more than $544,590, to write a new exam for potential firefighters. The Fire Department does not have a current list of eligible candidates, and a new exam will be administered so the department can fill vacancies as firefighters retire.
• Denied an application for a chicken license at 330 Vermont St. after receiving information from law enforcement that showed the applicants were already keeping chickens before they obtained a license. An inspection by the SPCA Serving Erie County and city officers on Oct. 26, following a complaint regarding animal fighting, resulted in the seizure of six roosters and 13 hens.
• Adopted a resolution condemning an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda and called on Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to hold hearings on human rights violations there.
• Adopted a resolution urging the state Department of Transportation to quickly examine whether it’s feasible to take down the Skyway.
• Approved a measure that would permit library stands to be placed in city rights of way at 10 locations in Parkside.