Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and her administration to be prepared for strong opposition to a downtown casino, negotiate for revenue and local hiring preferences, and to embrace the debate, but not to discount the economic impact and jobs such a development would have on the city.
That was the advice in a nutshell offered by Buffalo’s mayor to Mayor Warren as her administration investigates what potential a Seneca Nation of Indians casino would have at Midtown.
According to Mayor Brown, if plans for the Midtown casino are successful, the city of Rochester could get money for policing, marketing, area traffic and pedestrian upgrades, and commitments to hire women, minorities, and local residents. Brown said Buffalo received that and more. In an interview, Buffalo’s mayor said he didn’t see the development being a problem and that everything can be managed the same way any large-scale facility in a downtown area would be, as reported by the Democrat & Chronicle.
Plans being floated by developer Robert Morgan for Rochester include the Seneca Nation building and operating a combination casino-performing arts center on East Main Street. A formal proposal for the project has yet to be made. A basic outline of the project includes either a four or five-story facility on Midtown’s central parcel, costing between $70 million and $100 million. The upper floors would include a 3,000-seat theater, the casino, which would only offer video gaming, would be located on the first two floors, with parking underneath. The development is promised to create 500 jobs.
Because of his experience with the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in the downtown Buffalo area, Warren sought Brown’s input. Mayor Brown said the leaders of the two upstate New York cities have spent a significant amount of time discussing the matter. One major difference is that Buffalo Creek is a full-fledged casino, which operates under a state compact that requires a percentage of slot machine revenue go to the city. That, according to Mayor Brown, means the city of Buffalo receives between $4 million and $7 million annually.
The last time the Seneca Nation considered a downtown Rochester casino was possibly in 2010, when the mayor was Robert Duffy. At that time the location looked at was a former Rochester Gas and Electric property on Andrews Street next to the Genesee River. According to Duffy, the idea then was for a full-fledged casino and no performing arts center. However, the idea failed to progress due to environmental issues at the site. Duffy, who is now the president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, said, “The people working on this will examine it from every angle. But I give the mayor great credit for her creativity and looking at this. It’s a very creative way to look to create a performing arts center, look to create jobs.”