Allegany Territory, Salamanca, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Seneca Nation of Indians on Tuesday opened a statewide advocacy and advertising campaign designed to emphasize its economic contributions to Western New York and to protect its exclusive right to casino gaming in the region, regardless of what the state government does to permit casinos in New York.
The Senecas Mean Business campaign will promote the benefits of the Seneca Nation’s $1.1 billion economy, including the $125 million annual payroll for its 6,000 employees and the $167 million spent annually with local businesses and suppliers. The campaign will also seek the support of its neighboring communities as it works to maintain the exclusive rights to casino gaming granted by the 2002 compact with New York State and for which it invested $900 million over the last decade.
The campaign’s informational and educational web site is www.senecasmeanbusiness.com.
“Over 10 years, we’ve demonstrated our expertise in this industry, our commitment to the region and our achievements in doing what we said we would with our three casinos,” Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter said in a news release. “We certainly hope and expect that state legislators and the governor would not ignore another agreement with Indians and will respect the ‘carve out’ of our exclusivity zone.”
Porter noted that in a scientific poll recently conducted on the Nation’s behalf, 41 percent of all respondents knew that the Seneca Nation has a zone of gaming exclusivity in Western New York, where state law says no competing casinos are permitted. Given that New York State promised the Seneca Nation exclusivity, 71 percent of respondents felt that other casinos – especially those owned by publicly traded companies from Las Vegas or Asia that would remove profits from New York – should not be permitted in Western New York.
“If New York legislators and a majority of New Yorkers decide that casinos are a good thing statewide and approve amending the state constitution to get them, we would simply maintain and argue that existing state law giving us exclusive gaming rights in our region must be respected and continued,” Porter said.
The campaign is also designed to increase awareness of the Nation and its rights for state legislators and average New Yorkers from other regions who may not understand its history and achievements.
The campaign most publicly takes the form of radio advertising in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Salamanca and Albany, starting Thursday. Additionally, www.senecasmeanbusiness.com will provide a portal for New York residents to write their legislators and voice their support of the Seneca Nation.
The campaign is also enlisting support among statewide business, political and community leaders, vendors, regular casino customers and Nation employees. Kiosks now stand in Seneca Gaming Corp.’s Niagara Falls and Allegany casinos where patrons can obtain information about statewide and Nation gaming benefits and write electronic letters to their legislators.
Campaign organizers based the direction and strategy on the poll of 1,000 Western New Yorkers that showed overwhelming support for the Nation’s gaming operations and negligible backing for statewide casino gambling.
In the poll’s major finding, a dominant majority – 84 percent – favored continued operation of Seneca Nation gaming in its Western New York exclusivity zone and payments from it to the state and local communities. That is superior to wide-open, Las Vegas- or Malaysian-owned commercial casinos statewide, those polled said.
On Dec. 12, the Nation formally filed for arbitration over New York’s violation of its gaming compact that guarantees the Nation a 14-county Western New York exclusivity zone for casino gambling.
The decision came after more than a year of unproductive discussions with state officials from two gubernatorial administrations. The Nation withheld what now totals more than $350 million in payments to the state, for gaming activity starting Jan. 1, 2009, because of the violations. Between 2002 and 2008, the Nation paid the state, and the three communities that host Seneca casinos, $476 million under the compact’s provisions.
The compact, signed in 2002, states: “the Nation shall have total exclusivity with respect to the installation and operation of…gaming devices, including slot machines, within the geographic area defined by…”