Tag Archives: Seneca Casino

Construction Halts

28 Aug

The Senecas have halted construction on the Buffalo Creek Casino structure. The $300 million project is already well underway and the permanent structure was slated to open in 2010.

The Seneca Gaming Commission cites the slagging economy for leading to this decision, but some point to uncertainty with respect to the lawsuit that has been filed by certain citizens and groups seeking to shut the casino operation down altogether in Buffalo.

My only question is this. Will the casino remain on Mayor Brown’s master list of Buffalo projects that he trots out to rebut any and all negative press about the city?

I know personally that the addition of a Tim Horton’s to a B-Kwik on Seneca Street is what single-handedly convinces prospective developers that Buffalo is on the rise!

Skretny Punts

26 Aug

Judge Skretny refused today to issue an order shutting down the Buffalo Creek casino.

The judge instead directed a federal agency — the National Indian Gaming Commission — to “carry out their congressionally mandated obligations” and decide whether the casino should be shut down…

…Today’s ruling comes as construction crews continue erecting the structural steel for the casino project on nine acres of land off Michigan Avenue east of HSBC Arena.

Attorneys for the opposition, Citizens for a Better Buffalo, and the U.S. government, which represents the National Indian Gaming Commission, were originally expected to have arguments before Skretny. But he told both sides on Aug. 15 that he would rule on their motions on or before today.

Today is also the first day that new rules by the National Indian Gaming Commission take effect, which the government says makes the Seneca land eligible for gambling.

Skretny’s anger at the government attorneys for not telling him about the new rules changes while he considered the casino’s future comes through in today’s opinion.

Citizens for a Better Buffalo, you’ll note from the caption of the decision, is not a party to the action, which again brings up the question of why the Wendt Foundation is funneling its funding of this lawsuit through the Network for Religious Communities then through non-party Citizens for a Better Buffalo.

Whatever. No one cares.

$708,000

13 Aug

And the State, in turn, will pay the “host communities” of the Senecas’ three WNY casinos.

$57.3 million in slots revenue was sent to Albany – $2.8 million of that came from the temporary Buffalo facility. The host community for the Buffalo casino is to get over $708,000 from that. The problem is – who is the host community? Naturally, the city and county are already fighting over that issue. Sometime down the road, it’s estimated that the Buffalo facility will earn $7 million per year for the host community.

Can Brown and Collins figure out what to do with the local share without going to court? Personally, I think the city is entitled to the whole thing as the host community. In the meantime, the permanent Seneca facility is rather quickly being added to the local skyline, with about 4 stories’ worth of steel already erected.

Federal Justice William Skretny will be holding a hearing on August 21st on the issue of whether the current, temporary facility should be shut down pursuant to his July ruling. If that was to happen, one would hope that the opponents would pay a bond into court to make the Senecas whole in the event the 2nd Circuit overturns Skretny’s decision.

Debunking Bunk

11 Aug

Robert Kresse, Trustee and Secretary of the Wendt Foundation in the Buffalo News:

Wendt’s three trustees agreed to finance the lawsuit in January 2006, and the foundation so far has funneled $1.9 million through the Network of Religious Communities, one of the plaintiffs, for legal expenses.

The trustees were unaware of the Harrah’s investment until a periodic review following their decision to fund the suit, said trustee Robert J. Kresse.

Investment advisers Groesbeck Investment Management, based in New Jersey, determined the investment choices. The trustees decided to sell because the holdings were “inconsistent” with their position on gambling in the City of Buffalo, Kresse said.

The Wendt Foundation’s 2005 form 990, signed by Trustee & Secretary Robert Kresse lists and itemizes the Harrah’s investment.

The Wendt Foundation’s 2004 form 990, signed by Trustee & Secretary Robert Kresse, lists and itemizes the Harrah’s investment.

The Wendt Foundation’s 2003 Form 990, signed by Trustee & Secretary Robert Kresse, lists and itemizes the Harrah’s investment.

That “periodic review” took place every year ’round tax time. Just so we’re clear.

Wendt in the Niagara Falls Reporter

4 Aug

Mike Hudson, commenter and agent provocateur on this site, writes up the Wendt Foundation imbroglio over at his paper. Thanks to Mike for the kind words.

Bruce Jackson and Carl Paladino

3 Aug

I was scrolling today through the Citizens for a Better Buffalo website – which hasn’t been updated since 2007 – and found at the very bottom of a loooooong scroll this entry:

Jackson to Paladino: “What’s your interest?”
8/17/2006

In an astounding exchange of e-mails, Professor Bruce Jackson asks developer Carl Paladino why he promotes the Casino so heavily. He does not get an answer to his question. Indeed, the style of Paladino’s response suggests that he surely has something to hide. Citizen for a Better Buffalo, YOU decide. To read this apalling exchange, click here. – Ed

Here is the .pdf of Jackson’s Artvoice piece detailing his email correspondence with Carl Paladino.

Now, when Jackson attacked me, he accused me of being part of a conspiracy to “Swiftboat” the holy, sainted Wendt Foundation. Unlike with Paladino, Jackson did not put fingers to keyboard to ask me about it. That’s shoddy “journalism”, even from a prestigious SUNY Professor who earns $150,000. I have emailed Jackson a total of three times since this whole thing blew up and he has not deigned to respond to me. Typical, as Jackson doesn’t have to answer for anything he says or writes.

Note that Jackson asks Paladino:

I’m trying to figure out why you keep pushing the casino so aggressively

As he has since done with me, Jackson starts off with the assumption that anyone who in some way defends the casino or criticizes its opponents has some personal or financial interest in it. Jackson’s motives, of course, are pure and sweet and taste of honey and roses. Right?

I’m not saying Jackson has any ulterior motive, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. He is quick to attack those who do not share his views, yet is slow to admit his own interest in the casino battle. So, if it’s appropriate for Paladino, it’s appropriate to ask the question of Bruce Jackson (here, since he won’t respond to my emails):

I’m trying to figure out why you keep pushing casino opposition so aggressively. I’m also trying to figure out where the money goes.

Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls

1 Aug

It looks like the completion of the Senecas’ luxury hotel in the Falls has opened up a bit of a market. The beautiful and historic Hotel Niagara will be undergoing a much-needed multimillion dollar renovation.

The operators of the nearby Conference Center Niagara Falls have said that a limited number of upscale hotel rooms in the city have limited their ability to book large events.

I wonder whether casino foes have produced or commissioned a study of the Seneca casino on the New York side with respect to the city economy. I mean, Niagara Falls, NY has been in the toilet economically for many years, and many Buffalo casino foes point to the the Falls example and crow that the surrounding area remains somewhat dilapidated. That, of course, is a silly argument unless one was operating under the premise that the casino could cure every ill. If anything, that casino brings people to the Falls who might otherwise go to the Canadian side. We are pulling in casino business from elsewhere. We are not cannibalizing the wonderful theater in Niagara Falls (which doesn’t exist) or the other high-end entertainment in the Falls (which, save for a few restaurants, doesn’t exist).

Likewise, I suspect that local dollars for a Buffalo Creek casino would “cannibalize” not so much ticket sales at Shea’s, (Joel Rose himself said on WBEN the other day that casinogoers “don’t go to the theater”), but would instead draw in money that would otherwise go to the bingo parlors and slots of Fort Erie, Irving, and Niagara Falls.

I don’t think anyone really believes that, and if nothing else there are loads of new downtown jobs in Niagara Falls that pay good money with benefits, and those jobs didn’t exist a few years ago. It’s not like those jobs cannibalized other jobs in other industries. It’s not like people went en masse from their jobs-for-life at Carborundum to start making beds or serving drinks or dealing cards. These had to be a net gain of jobs for that city.

It’s no wonder local casino opponents tend only to cite studies that are completed by PhDs who already subscribe to the anti-casino philosophy, and whose conclusions are no less subjective than those in a Seneca-commissioned study.

From the Federal Reserve’s Boston Branch:

Casinos that cater to a local market generally do not bring outside money into the economy through the spending of their patrons. In fact, such casinos may have no net ancillary economic impacts. Residents patronizing such casinos may simply substitute gambling for other goods and services. The secondary impacts of spending on the foregone goods and services would therefore be lost, offsetting any ancillary benefits from gaming expenditures at the casino. However, if a casino attracts gamblers who otherwise would be gambling out-of state, it can have net positive ancillary economic effects.

Nevertheless, a new casino catering to a local market can generate positive secondary economic effects through its employees if it induces an increase in total employment in and around its host community. Such affects are greatest for new casinos in areas of high unemployment (for example, rural Mississippi). Under such conditions, the increased purchasing power of workers who otherwise would be unemployed or “underemployed” generates multiplier effects. However, at the other extreme, a new casino in a tight labor market may cause competition for service sector labor.

Questions, Questions

30 Jul

Bruce Jackson doesn’t return emails. The Wendt Foundation doesn’t return phone calls. We are mere peons who do not merit a response, as we are little more than reactionary online purveyors of rumor, defamation, and innuendo. The only person who has put himself out there to speak on behalf of casino foes is Joel Rose, who appeared on Bauerle’s show with Kevin Hardwick today.

So far, what we’ve learned is that:

  • The Wendt Foundation has paid about $2 million to fund the legal battle, and this is available at its IRS 990 disclosure;
  • The Wendt Foundation paid the money to the Network for Religious Communities, which as a faith-based organization does not have to disclose to the public where it spends its money;
  • The group that Joel Rose runs, CACGEC, is formed under the auspices of the Network for Religious Communities, and is a registered New York non-profit corporation, but does not have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. CACGEC is a party to the lawsuit now pending before Judge Skretny against the federal government;
  • The Citizens for a Better Buffalo, the membership of which includes all three Wendt trustees, is not a party to the pending lawsuit, but has been mentioned as being a recipient of Wendt Foundation funds via the Network for Religious Communities in furtherance of the lawsuit (to which it isn’t a party). The CBB is a non-profit corporation that does not have IRS tax-exempt status;and
  • The $2 million-ish has gone through at least one or two organizations before then being paid out to various and sundry lawyers, but no one knows exactly who and how much.
  • I am not an expert on any of this, but it would seem to me that if money is being paid from a non-profit, tax exempt organization to a non-profit but not tax exempt organization, there may be an issue there. At what point, if any, does the money become taxable? Where did the money go once it left the Network for Religious Communities?

    As WNYMind said, every time the Wendt Foundation gets to keep, tax-free, its capital gains, it derives a public subsidy. We have a right to ask these questions, and we have a right know the answers, without regard to whether or not we are anti-casino, pro-casino, or otherwise.

    Also see what Buffalo Geek has to say about his call to Joel Rose on Hardwick today.

    Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

    29 Jul

    Question: Does my inquiry into the spending of Wendt Foundation money somehow magically make me a supporter of the Seneca’s Buffalo Creek Casino?

    Answer: Of course not.

    Here is my record on the issue of the Seneca Casino.

    Here is what I wrote earlier this month concerning my current indifference to the Seneca Casino in light of Skretny’s ruling:

    I have to say that my thinking on the casino downtown has morphed from ignorance to opposition to indifference … So, I’m now indifferent. If it’s blocked, great. If it goes up, great. Either way, my day won’t change. But if I’m leaning in any one direction, I’d say build the damn thing already. Build it nice, build it big, and build it in such a way so as to maximize pedestrian entry and egress from the property. By cooperating with the Senecas, we can help make it a project that is integrated into its surroundings, rather than an island surrounded by a sea of useless parking.

    Hardly a ringing endorsement, wouldn’t you say?

    Here is what I wrote in my original “swiftboating” post about the Wendt Foundation:

    The Wendt Foundation paid $2 million to fund the legal fees for the casino half-sorta-victory last week. Two million dollars. That’s a lot of scratch, and frankly I had thought that the lawyers had donated their time towards this effort. I’m taken aback that there was an expenditure for this….

    …Imagine if $2 million had gone towards an actual charitable cause that actually helps the underprivileged. Although I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that a sovereign exclave should not be carved out of Buffalo’s downtown to facilitate gambling that can’t be subject to state or local taxes, I don’t care about the morality of this, and I don’t care whether it’s a “good” or “bad” deal for the city any more than I care whether the heavily subsidized, money-losing Hyatt is a “good” or “bad” deal.

    But this interview between Bruce Jackson and Joel Rose pretty much underscores the fact that the whole “sovereignty” issue is a technicality that stands in the place of “we know so much better than you”. And they got $2 mill from a local charity to pay legal fees rather than an actual charitable effort.

    Oh, well.

    You see, for me the sovereignty and exclave was what I was most opposed to, because I thought it was a cynical work-around the state constitution.

    Casino opponents? They equate criticism and questions about Wendt with casino support. My 2 year old comes up with less facile conclusions than that. Their reaction has taken many forms, but all of them have one central underlying theme, which can be summarized as:

    STFU! How dare you question the Wendt Foundation?

    I will tell you one thing. Through all of this, I’ve lost a great deal of respect for casino opponents and their George Bushian “not with us, you’re against us” mentality.

    With apologies to Mad Magazine and Al Jaffee.

    Shorter Esmonde

    27 Jul

    Seriously, though – what “price” are casino foes paying for “telling the truth”? That people disagree with them? That their funding is being scrutinized?

    The litany of negatives that go along with a casino development in Buffalo are often weighed against the positives, and the ultimate balance is somewhat subjective. Even Esmonde acknowledges some positives from a casino project. But what’s often repeated by opponents is how the money will be taken out of the community. Really?

    Aren’t the Senecas part of the “community”? Don’t they spend their money in the same places as you or I? Aren’t they Western New Yorkers just as much as Stan from Lancaster or Johnny from Niagara Falls? Haven’t the Senecas been just as economically downtrodden as any other minority?

    The Senecas and their defenders don’t promote the casino as being the savior of Buffalo, so opponents’ arguments to the contrary are beside the point.

    There are myriad businesses in existence in this community that are probably a net drain on society and the economy. This may just be another added to the list. So?

    One of my biggest problems with the whole Seneca casino deal is that there was no public input. I’d much prefer that the state constitution is amended to permit legal, tightly regulated, taxed class III gaming in New York State. At the end of the day, however, we elected the politicians who cut this deal with the Senecas. No one elected its opponents.