Costs associated with police services provided to the Seneca Niagara Casino in are a concern for city officials in Niagara Falls.
The casino located in downtown Niagara Falls, New York is operated by the Seneca Gaming Corporation, which is owned by the Seneca Nation of Indians. The 50-acre plot the casino is situated on is sovereign land, which enables the Nation to offer gambling and also exempts the tribe from having to pay property taxes.
At one time, a $17 million annual contract existed between the New York State Police and the Nation and police calls were responded to from right in the casino where the state police have an office. However, after a dispute with the state over the cost of the policing provided, the Seneca Nation stopped paying for the service and the state police stopped providing the service. Subsequently, for the last three years, free police protection has been provided to the casino by the department. According to Bryan DalPorto, Niagara Falls Superintendent of Police, as reported by The Buffalo News. DalPorto added that the police department responds to calls at the casino as many as 10 times daily.
DalPorto said that estimating the cost of the policing services provided to the casino would be difficult, but that to police the casino effectively, between six and 10 full-time offices would be required for around the clock, all week coverage. The chief said that with benefits and retirement, an individual officer’s salary averages approximately $125,000 annually, according to the news agency.
DalPorto says that while there is a State Police office in the casino that conducts background checks on employees and investigations for the gaming board, they no longer respond to calls; that job is now essentially being done by the Niagara Falls Police Department for free. The police chief expressed his frustration regarding the lack of effort put forth to address the situation, saying, “I’ve been banging that drum and fighting this battle for years … I’ve gotten nowhere,” DalPorto said. “My personal opinion is that they have completely put us off, and they don’t want to pay the bill. They certainly are stakeholders in the downtown area, and the majority of police work in the downtown area is happening inside that casino, and we are tying up our cars inside that casino, which really isn’t even part of the city,” as reported by the news agency.
The police department’s obligation to provide police protection to the casino as part of the gaming compact between the state and the Seneca Nation, is something that needs to be looked into further, according to Councilman Kenneth Tompkins.
The Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in Niagara Falls has 147,000 square feet of gaming space which includes 3,700 slot machines and 92 table games. Following a $5 million renovation, last month the casino officially reopened its Western Door Steakhouse. In addition to the Seneca Niagara Casino, the Seneca Gaming Corporation also operates the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo as well as Salamanca’s Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino.