Buffalo – A breakdown in talks between the city and Seneca Indian Nation could alter what the tribe’s Buffalo casino will look like.
Mayor Byron Brown said Wednesday he told tribal leaders he was no longer considering selling part of a street that runs through the site of the planned casino to the Senecas because they would not make certain promises in return.
“They gave us no choice but to end the discussions,” Brown said.
The Senecas did not immediately respond but have said that without the two-block stretch of street, they would build a less ambitious casino than their preferred $ 125 million facility.
Among the city’s demands were that Buffalo residents make up half of casino employees and that a third would be minorities and women.
Brown also was seeking assurances that the Senecas would not add to their sovereign territory in Buffalo by buying property beyond the nine-acre casino site.
“These items we’re not willing to bend on,” Brown said.
The mayor said the tribe had issued an ultimatum that gave the city until 11 a.m. Wednesday to accept the Senecas‘ casino terms or they would move forward on their own.
“The city is not going to be subject to ultimatums,” Brown said.
City officials said the tribe did not go far enough when it classified certain of the city’s terms as “intentions.”
“We were seeking legally binding commitments from them on these undertakings. That’s what we have not been able to get,” Economic Development Commissioner Richard Tobe said.
The city also wanted the Senecas to market Buffalo attractions and reinvest gambling proceeds in businesses that would help the local economy.
“We have had moments when we were close but then moments we were worlds apart,” the city’s chief attorney, Alisa Lukasiewicz, said of the negotiations.
“At this point, we are worlds apart.”
A 2002 compact between the Senecas and Gov. George Pataki allows the Senecas to build three casinos in western New York in exchange for a share of slot machine profits, to be split by the state and host communities. The Senecas currently operate casinos in Niagara Falls and Salamanca.