The passage of Referendum #1 in New York last Election Day was a victory for Governor Andrew Cuomo and pro-casino activists throughout the state. As a result of the referendum's passage, NY law provides for the construction of seven new commercial casinos over the next seven years. The casinos will not be NY's first gambling houses, however. Tribal casinos have dotted the landscape of the Empire State for years, entertaining gamblers both near and far. As NY prepares to build its first commercial casino, the Seneca and Oneida Indian Nation tribes are bracing themselves for some stiff new casino competition.
Tribal Gambling Halls in NY
The Seneca and Oneida Indian Nation already operate four thriving casinos in NY. Located in Niagara Falls, Salamanca, Buffalo, and Verona, these facilities offer the public a wide range of gambling and entertainment options.
Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino
The Seneca Buffalo Creek facility, opened in 2007, boasts an “intimate environment” with over 800 slot machines and 18 table games. Located in downtown Buffalo, visitors can combine their gambling trip with an invigorating baseball game at Coca Cola Field or an exciting show at the First Niagara Arena. The building is situated on nine acres of Native American land called the “Buffalo Creek Territory.” The Seneca tribe plays an active role in the Buffalo community as well. In partnership with the Seneca Gaming Corporation, the Indian Nation has donated $1 million to Buffalo-area renovation and beautification projects (read about more donations made by other Indian tribes).
Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel
Just across the Rainbow Bridge from Canada, this top-notch facility was deemed 2013's best hotel by Casino Player magazine. It has also been recognized for its pool, dealers, blackjack, roulette, comps, poker tournaments, and much more. Gamblers can choose from more than 4,000 slots and over 100 table games. Keno and Poker are also available. Those seeking live entertainment can find it at The Bear's Den, an entertainment hub where hot new acts like Keb' Mo' and classic rock stars like the 80s band Heart perform.
Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel
The Allegany Casino and Hotel, located in the city of Salamanca, recently scored first place awards from Casino Player magazine for its rooms, suites, and comps. With over 2,000 slots and over 30 table games, visitors can surely find something to occupy their time. High-stakes gamblers enjoy a high-limit room that opens every day at noon. Gamblers who prefer lower-limit betting can take advantage of $5 blackjack tables as well. Upcoming shows at the Seneca Allegany Events Center include a Kenny Rogers concert on April 26 and a week-long Osmond Family show May 7-11.
Oneida Indian Nation: The Turning Stone Resort
Another prevalent Native American group in NY is the Oneida Indian Nation. This tribe operates the Turning Stone Resort in Verona. Opened in 1993, the facility offers gambling, entertainment, and numerous golf-themed services and amenities. The resort is just a 30-mile drive from Syracuse and serves local golfers as well as gamblers. For those who want to catch a show or two, upcoming performances include legendary rock performers like Styx, Foreigner, and Huey Lewis and the News.
The Seneca and Oneida: Bracing Themselves for Competition
Both the Seneca and Oneida tribes are bracing themselves for stiff competition now that seven brand new gambling houses will soon share their territory. Just this month, the Seneca Indian Nation purchased a 32-acre parcel of land near Rochester. The parcel could serve as the location for a fourth casino in the future, although the tribe would have to gain approval from both local and state governments before construction could begin. Also within the past several weeks, the Oneida tribe invested a large sum of money in improvements for their Turning Stone facility. In total, the tribe poured $15 millions into the renovation of the facility's slot machines and loyalty program. All of these efforts were carried out in anticipation of the competition that seven new gambling facilities will surely bring.
On the Horizon: NY's First Commercial Casino
NY's first commercial casino will likely be built somewhere between the Seneca and Oneida tribal lands. Juris Basens, a casino operations official at a commercial real estate group called Wilmorite in Rochester, says the midpoint between Syracuse and Rochester is an “attractive location” because it is close to both cities and connected by a convenient thruway. The new facility wears a projected price tag of around $350 million.
Not all New Yorkers are jumping up and down at the prospect of more gambling locations in their state. The Referendum #1 contest was a close one; almost half of the population actually voted against casino expansion in New York. Because of this, the new construction projects face staunch opposition from anti-gambling groups.
Many New Yorkers have expressed the "NIMBY" sentiment: They don't want any of the new gambling facilities to be located in their "back yard." Potential locations for the seven new facilities include the Catskills, the mid-Hudson area, and Albany/Saratoga Springs. Just last week, the city council of Saratoga Springs voted down the possibility of a new casino in that area (read more). The "Not In My Backyard" phenomenon seems to be alive and well as New Yorkers scramble to decide where their first new casino will actually be located.
Racinos in the Empire State
Although the referendum-sanctioned casinos will be NY's first commercial gambling halls, racinos have existed in the state for years. A racino is different from a casino in that it incorporates horse racing with slot machines and, in some cases, table games. A racino is not necessarily a tribal race track. NY Racinos may be found in Yonkers, Batavia, Westchester, Monticello, Ozone Park, Vernon, and Saratoga Springs. They, too, will face increased competition as more NY gambling facilities appear on the horizon.
The gambling landscape in NY will definitely change over the next seven years. As more casinos vie for the public's attention, gamblers are bound to enjoy the customer-oriented perks that accompany any highly competitive industry.