NIAGARA FALLS – With its 11th anniversary approaching on New Year’s Eve, Seneca Niagara Casino is receiving a makeover, with brighter lighting, a redesigned gambling floor and better air quality, executives said Wednesday.
The $26 million project, giving a new look to the casino’s two-acre main gambling floor, started in July and is about three-quarters complete, said Cathy Walker, president and CEO of Seneca Gaming Corp.
After a break between Christmas and New Year’s, when the casino is at its busiest, the remodeling work will resume and should be completed in February, according to James Wise, senior vice president of marketing.
About 300 construction workers are being employed on the remodeling.
Walker said the redesign includes a new $6 million air-handling system that is supposed to do a better job of removing smoke from the air. Because the casino is located on land that is part of the Seneca Nation, New York State’s laws against indoor smoking in public places don’t apply.
“It is going to cut down on smoke. We are doing more circulation changes of the air. It is going to make the experience that much better for our guests and employees,” Walker said.
A definite breeze could be felt on the casino floor as reporters toured the facility.
The redesigned gambling floor limits the rows of slots to five machines long. Many of the 4,000 machines have been replaced, and all have new bases. New chairs also were installed at the slots and at the 90 table games. Also, a new Keno Bar was installed near the entrance to the buffet restaurant, and the Player’s Club, the customer service desk, has been remodeled.
Walker said the design changes were driven in part by feedback from the casino’s customers, who have made about 10 million visits to the casino in the past year.
She said after analyzing email surveys of gamblers, “One of the things they told us is that they wanted to see a more Las Vegas-like, open, airy experience; easier aisles, easier ways to move about the facility.”
Besides arranging the machines and table games in more curved lines, the walkways are wider. The large Club 101 in the center of the floor, which includes a bandstand, will be removed, enhancing sight lines across the main floor.
It will be replaced by a new feature bar to be called Stir in the northeast corner of the casino, which will include a bandstand.
“The way the floor flows is a lot better than it was,” Seneca Gaming Chairman Kevin W. Seneca said. “When you walk in, you can see everything. Once Club 101 is down, and some of these other canopies are down, you’re going to be able to see right across to where the new feature bar is going to be.”
Another factor in the remodeling was a desire to freshen the casino as new competition comes online from non-Indian casinos approved by voters last month.
“As everyone knows, the casino market is expanding, and there’s more offerings out there, but we are ahead of the game, and we’ll stay ahead of the game,” Walker said. “It’ll be two, three, four years before those other New York properties are able to open.”
Western New York will be off-limits to non-Indian casinos because the Senecas’ compact with the state gives them exclusivity in this region.
Forty TV screens have been mounted in the casino. Walker said they will show news and sports channels as well as Keno.
Robert Chamberlain, senior vice president of design and construction, said the new subfloor beneath the carpeting conceals 61 miles of all-new cables: 27 miles of wire for the surveillance system and 34 miles for the slot machines. The wiring system also allows the capability for easier upgrades.
“If any technology change comes, we’re already prewired for it,” Chamberlain said.