Buffalo’s city treasury expects to collect more money this year in license fees for chicken coops than from the Seneca Nation for operation of the Senecas’ multimillion-dollar downtown casino.
And it expects to collect a lot more from the quarters that are dropped into parking meters than from the quarters dropped into slot machines at the casino.
Those are among the startling statistics presented Thursday night by a professor of hospitality and tourism management during a gathering of about 60 opponents of casino gambling in Buffalo.
Steven H. Siegel of Niagara University said the city has budgeted income of $100 from the issuance of chicken coop licenses and none from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino at Michigan Avenue and Fulton Street. He said the city expects to collect more than $1.7 million from its parking meters but nothing from the casino’s slot machines.
“Evidently the licensing of chickens is a more lucrative revenue stream than a $130 million casino is,” he said.
The professor used those examples from the 2012-13 city budget to illustrate his point that the casino makes little direct contribution to the city treasury. The Senecas have, however, agreed to replace sidewalks and do some relatively minor landscaping around their temporary casino building while their full casino and hotel complex is under construction.
The city originally expected to receive about $3.5 million a year from the Senecas through a compact in which the state granted the Indian nation the exclusive right to operate casinos in Western New York. The Senecas are withholding the payments, because they say the state violated the compact by permitting the installation of slot machines at nearby racetracks.
The city received nearly $2.6 million through the compact in the 2009-10 fiscal year but nothing since then. Meanwhile, it has adopted a $25 license fee for anyone who wants to raise up to five chickens in a backyard coop as part of an urban chicken farming trend. It also collects 25 cents for 15 minutes at most city parking meters.
Siegel’s examples were part of a much larger presentation on what he said were the actual costs of a casino. He said slot machine gamblers would lose $56 million a year if the casino expands to a proposed 800 slot machines; state and local sales tax income would drop by more than $5 million a year because the sovereign Indian nation is not subject to sales taxes; and the city would forfeit $100,000 to $250,000 in annual property taxes because the nation is tax exempt.
Siegel was among speakers at a meeting sponsored by Citizens for a Better Buffalo, an organization formed to stop construction of the Buffalo casino. The group met in the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum at 263 Michigan Ave., about three blocks from the casino site. The citizens organization has filed lawsuits aimed at stopping the casino project.