Issue 292
April 17 - April 23, 2006
Volume 6
page 2
 

A Casino Proposal That Was Once Lauded Is Now Drawing Criticism
As Reported by The New York Times

BUFFALO, New York — When the Seneca Nation of Indians proposed building a casino in this depressed city's downtown, business and political leaders were quick to signal their support, saying it would draw tourists from outside the region and spur development along the nearby waterfront.

But now that support is wavering. One of the region's most successful businessmen, Tom Golisano, a billionaire, declared his opposition last week, and he was followed by the Erie County executive, who said he would join a pair of lawsuits brought by citizens' groups to halt construction.

The sudden turmoil follows a Seneca Nation filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that described the tribe's plans for the casino in terms much different than what city officials and business leaders say they heard in the initial proposal — that the casino was intended to encourage people from outside the area to come and spend their money in the economically troubled city.

The casino, the Seneca Nation said in a S.E.C. filing last Dec. 29, "is expected to cater primarily to the local market in Buffalo and its suburbs."

As word of that S.E.C. filing filtered out in recent weeks, support has begun to shift.

"This is a train that needs to stop here and now," Mr. Golisano said during a news conference on Tuesday. "I don't think Buffalo Creek should be built."

A 2002 compact between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State allowed the Seneca Nation to build three casinos at the western end of the state. One opened in Niagara Falls later that year, with a second following in Salamanca in 2004. The proposed Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, named for one of the area's earliest settlements, is scheduled to open on a sovereign nine-acre parcel in downtown Buffalo by December 2007.

But Mr. Golisano, the founder of Paychex, owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team and a three-time candidate for governor on the Independence Party line, said that by catering to people in the area, the planned casino would hurt the city.

"It's not going to bring people or dollars in from very far outside the area," said Mr. Golisano. "I think it's a transfer of money from local citizens to the Seneca Gaming Corporation and I don't know how that helps Buffalo."

Joel A. Giambra, the Erie County executive, said he agreed. "If it's not marketed to bring in outside money, it's going to be a disaster," he said on Thursday. He said he was also concerned that Seneca officials "refer to it as a 'European' casino. I thought that was a code for a casino that preys on poor people."

But Seneca Gaming Corporation officials point to 3,000 jobs created at its existing casinos, including a 600-room hotel that opened in Niagara Falls in December 2005 and say they plan to employ another 1,000 in Buffalo. In a statement, the corporation estimated $50 million to $70 million is spent annually by Buffalo-area gamblers at casinos, bingo halls and racetracks in Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, Ontario.

"Right now, those tens of millions of dollars are leaving Western New York and supporting economic development and communities across the border," said Barry E. Snyder Sr., president of the Seneca Nation of Indians and chairman of the Seneca Gaming Corporation. "Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino will give Buffalo a vehicle with which to keep those dollars in the area so that they can support local jobs and add to the revenue share which the city will receive."

Buffalo's mayor, Byron W. Brown, who took office in January, said he wanted to meet with Mr. Snyder before deciding whether to continue his support.

"I always had the belief that their casino property in Buffalo would be aggressively marketed outside the region and would bring in tourists with new dollars spending those new dollars in our city and region," he said Thursday.

Last month, the Seneca Gaming Corporation asked the city for $6 million in improvements to roads and utilities around the nine-acre site, which houses a dormant grain elevator, as well as an easement on a city street. "The city is still in a very difficult fiscal situation and I think this most recent revelation really creates a dynamic where we have to take a long hard look at providing any resources for infrastructure around the casino," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Golisano, who blamed advertising for the New York State Lottery for helping create "a generation of gamblers," said he would consider helping pay for the citizens' lawsuits, as well as launching an advertising campaign to inform local residents about the impact of gambling. Mr. Giambra said Erie County's legal department would provide "bench strength" to a legal team made up of 10 lawyers from four Buffalo firms.

Joseph M. Finnerty, coordinating lawyer for the state and federal lawsuits filed by opponents, said the state litigation was meant to force Buffalo Creek into the same environmental-impact review required of most large-scale projects in the state. The federal lawsuit maintains that the process mandated by federal law for building Indian casinos off-reservation was ignored by former Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton in allowing the casino deal to go through. A hearing is scheduled for the federal lawsuit in May, with oral arguments in the state litigation set for July.

Mr. Finnerty said last week's statements by Mr. Golisano and Mr. Giambra buoyed the efforts of casino opponents.

"What you're seeing now is a sea change from the situation as it existed on the first business day after New Year's, when we announced our first suit," Mr. Finnerty said. "At that point, the mentality was, 'This is a done deal.' "

Mr. Snyder said the Seneca Gaming Corporation plans on spending $125 million to build a Buffalo casino, which he said would be marketed jointly with the other two sites, but could scale back plans without government cooperation.

Mr. Snyder, of the Seneca Nation, said, "We will get Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino built." He said it was up to city leaders to decide whether they want to work toward developing a casino that will bring outside visitors to Buffalo, "or whether they want something less magnificent."

 

 

 


Svenska Spel first among 140 WLA operators
As Reported by yogonet.com

SWEDEN - Swedish Games is the first among government-owned licensed gaming companies worldwide with a poker site, which was launched on March 30. Boss Media provided the development work and system delivery. The next step on the market is expected to be that many government-owned licensed gaming companies launch their own sites.

In total, there are about 140 WLA government-owned licensed gaming companies, so-called WLA (World Lottery Association) companies, worldwide. “Svenska Spel is the first government-owned licensed gaming company to launch Internet poker. There are more companies in the starting blocks and they are well aware of our role in the development of this poker site and how important it is that the system supplier is the right one," says Johan Berg, President of Boss Media.

In November 2005, Svenska Spel received approval from the government to be the first Swedish gaming company to launch Internet poker. Since then, preparatory work has been under way at full speed. The aim during the entire development process was to create a world-class poker site in terms of entertainment and gaming responsibility.

"Gaming responsibility is a critical factor for the government-owned licensed gaming companies. Our solution is clearly more advanced than what is available on the market today. It creates greater security for the end-users as well as for the gaming company since they gain increased control of the gaming operations," says Berg.

Boss Media’s instant gaming platform, which was already being used by Svenska Spel, was selected as the base of the development work to ensure that the high demands could be met.

"It is a system that is easy to implement and which offers a high degree of control and many choices for the operator in the future. For example, it is easy to add new and change existing games and other programs that enhance the efficiency and security of the gaming operations. We are seeing great interest in this solution among the government-owned licensed gaming companies," says Johan Berg.

Casino jobs – a good deal?
As Reported by The Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO, California - A survey of county tribal employees shows a diverse, growing, mostly happy work force. They are retirees and middle-agers who wanted to shift gears. Or seasoned professionals who brought specialized skills to a new arena. Others are just starting out, in their early to mid-20s.

They serve meals and mix drinks. They deal cards, greet customers and count change in cashier cages, handling more money in one shift than many people see in a year.

Earning $10 an hour to $100,000 a year, they're part of what has become one of the region's fastest-growing labor pools: the Indian casino work force.

Figures gathered from the five tribes employing almost 90 percent of the county's 12,800 casino workers reveal a demographic portrait of this burgeoning industry. Even more illuminating are stories from workers themselves, how and why they came to be doing what they are.

Few of them are making less than $20,000 a year. Many earn $40,000, $50,000 or more, plus benefits. They are ethnically diverse. Most are older than 30 and many older than 50. About half drive at least 20 miles to work.

An overwhelming majority of the casino workers have at least a high school diploma, and many are pursuing higher education with tuition assistance from their employers. More than half of those in management have college degrees, executives say.

For some in this industry, like table games shift manager Pat Hixon, gaming has been a longtime profession. He supervised floor games at Las Vegas' posh Paris Resort before coming to Pala in 2001.

For others, such as dispatch supervisor Jerry Lynn, who has been running Barona's busy radio communications control room since 1994, casino work was a midlife change after 30 years of auto-body repairs.

“I make more now than I did in that career, and it's easier work,” he said. “It's hectic and it's stressful, but I don't have to worry about stitches in my fingers.”

Most casino jobs involve customer interactions, and people who are grumpy or introverted are advised to look elsewhere.

“It's lights. It's loud. It's fun,” said Danielle Quiroz, 28, a buffet cashier at Sycuan for 3½ years. “It's kind of like you're performing sometimes.”

Galyan “JuJu” Gago, 27, says working Sycuan's cashier's cage is far more stimulating than the liquor store where she used to be. “I deal with the money, with the jackpots. I deal with the customers when they bring me the chips,” she said. “It's fun.”

The regional casino work force has more than doubled in the five years that Gago has been at Sycuan. Five of the county's eight casinos opened in 2001, and all eight have expanded since then.

Yet the casinos still employ only a fraction of the region's 1.3 million workers, according to state Labor Department statistics. As of 2005, San Diego County had 86,600 construction workers, 21,600 grocery employees and 16,100 telecommunications workers. More people worked in clothing stores – 12,900 – than the 12,800 in Indian gaming.

Each of the more than two dozen casino employees interviewed for this story expressed high overall satisfaction in their jobs, including benefits such as health, dental and vision insurance, yearly bonuses and 401(k) funds.

According to figures provided by the casinos, a majority of their workers earn more than the $32,300 calculated by the state labor office as the 2005 median wage in San Diego County.

The main drawbacks voiced by casino employees were cigarette smoke and having to work nights, weekends and holidays.

“The hours can be a challenge,” said Barona Assistant General Manager Kari Stout-Smith, whose four 10-hour overnight shifts each week include Saturdays. “The only other negative to it is that not everybody's going to leave the casino happy. There can be some negativity sometimes.”

Each of the large casinos surveyed by The San Diego Union-Tribune showed noteworthy numbers in at least one demographic category.

Barona Valley Ranch, for example, reported that 65 percent of its 3,543 employees earn more than $40,000 a year. (Two casinos, Pala and Rincon, declined to provide pay-scale percentages.)

Viejas Casino reported many long-tenured employees, with 47 percent of its 2,222 workers on the payroll more than five years. Pala Casino listed 56 percent of its 1,863 workers as 41 or older.

Harrah's Rincon resort reported the most long-distance commuters, with 81 percent of its 1,656 workers driving at least 20 miles. Sycuan Casino reported the most diversity among its 2,004 employees, with 37 percent white, 24 percent Asian, 16 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black, 1 percent American Indian and 17 percent other minorities.

Gago, the Sycuan cashier, is Iraqi. She spends much of her time off with 10 pals from work – men and women.

“There is a Mexican, Vietnamese, white people – we're all mixed,” she said. “We go to restaurants. They come over to my house. We go to the movies. We go bowling.”

Floor security guard Murrill McCoy, who is 62 and black, worked for grocery stores and armored trucks before coming to Sycuan 12 years ago. He makes $15.70 an hour and likes the “carnival atmosphere” of casino work.

He and others elsewhere say few workers are moving from casino to casino. Most migration is in-house, from entry-level to skilled jobs, such as dealers. Their bosses agree, saying most turnover occurs in the first year or two.

“The thing that surprises me the most is the stability of the work force,” said Jerry Turk, Pala Casino managing partner. “Of the original 1,000 employees that we had (in 2001), over 250 of those people are still with us.”

Among them is Hixon, the table games shift manager. He had doubts about leaving Las Vegas because he had heard that tribal casinos in California were unprofessional and second-rate. Those misgivings were dispelled when he came to Pala and met Turk and his top managers.

“They wanted to operate this 100 percent like a Las Vegas casino,” Hixon said. “Everything I feared and heard was untrue.”

Sycuan Casino General Manager Steve Penhall said the toughest positions to fill are those at the top and bottom of the pay ranges, and for the same reason: the high cost of living in San Diego. Entry-level workers often have transportation problems, he said, which is why Sycuan now buses employees to work from Tecate, Chula Vista and El Cajon.

Many specialized jobs aren't out on the casino floor. Creative manager Larry Gallegos has been with Barona 11 years, overseeing its radio and TV ad campaigns and making a salary he says would rival any in his field.

Late last month, Gallegos was holding casting sessions for actors in an upcoming commercial, then reviewing the videotapes with the producer, director and writers in a Mira Mesa video production studio.

Tiffany Noriega of Carlsbad left an office job close to home four years ago to become senior secretary for the Harrah's Rincon marketing vice president. She drives 45 minutes to work, but says it's worth it.

A 38-year-old single mom, she makes $42,000 a year, 20 percent more than she did at her last job. She also likes being in on behind-the-scenes stuff such as booking entertainment, planning ad campaigns and organizing in-house promotions.

“This is the easiest and most fun job I could come up with without a college degree,” she said.

Many entry-level employees dream of career paths such as those taken by Viejas' John Tehan and Barona's Rodrigo Acero, both 31.

Tehan started out at Viejas 13 years ago, making minimum wage “cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash.” He worked his way up through the housekeeping department, eventually supervising it for eight years.

In 2004, he transferred into gaming, learning all the card games and becoming a dealer, then pit boss. Now he earns more than $55,000 as a shift manager and part-time casino manager, alternately supervising Viejas' 31 card tables and, in his other role, the entire casino on 12-hour overnight shifts.

Acero started at Barona almost 12 years ago as a dishwasher making $4.75 an hour. He was soon serving food and drinks on the casino floor, then 10 years ago got trained in-house to become a blackjack dealer.

Now Acero makes more than $60,000 a year managing Barona's baccarat room, where players wager $100 to $10,000 a hand. He wears a crisp suit; his dealers wear tuxedos. He describes his job as the exact opposite of the golf-club assembly line where he used to work in El Cajon.

“What attracts me to it is the action, the money, the people,” he said. “On top of that, every day is a different day.”

Acero expects more growth ahead in his casino, his industry and his career.

“They've given me the opportunity to be able to progress,” he said. “I know I can still keep moving up.”

JuJTRAIN

Formed in San Francisco 1994, Train quickly developed an avid local following, and by 1998 their radio favorite, "Free," was adopted by the widely popular Fox Television series, "Party Of Five." Drops Of Jupiter in 2001 achieved RIAA double platinum status, earning the band a Best Arrangement Grammy. In its newly released album, For Me, It's You, Train emerges with its most fully realized and keenly focused collection of their career.

Train will be performing at the following venues this month:

Borgata's Event Center

Date: Friday April 21, 2006

Time: 9:00pm

Ticket Price: $39.50

For more information: (866) 900-4849

Dates: Friday April 28, 2006

Time: 9:00pm

Ticket Price: $39.50

For more information: (866) 581-1486
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