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Seneca Nation explores possible business venture in Rochester

Seneca Nation explores possible business venture in Rochester

Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in the Cattaraugus County city of Salamanca. Photo provided.
Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in the Cattaraugus County city of Salamanca. (Photo provided)

Nearly a decade after proposing to build a casino near Jefferson Road in Henrietta, the Seneca Nation now is apparently looking at property in the city of Rochester for a potential business venture.

Representatives of the Seneca Nation are believed to be doing an exploratory search of possible vacant real estate in or near Atlantic Avenue and the Neighborhood of The Arts.

While plans for a casino in Henrietta evaporated not long after the Nation bought a parcel of land on Clay Road in March of 2014, largely due to public opposition, the Seneca have continued to look at the Rochester market to expand business operations.

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. confirmed that their interest in Rochester remains strong, though he wouldn’t say how any acquired property would be developed.

“Rochester is a market we have been exploring for some time,” Armstrong said in a prepared statement to the Rochester Business Journal. “Our history is tied to the Genesee Valley. With the right location, we think we can strategically position ourselves to strengthen and expand our economy for the future and add to the overall development momentum taking place in the region.”

The Seneca currently operate a collection of business endeavors, from full casinos and smaller slot machine-only centers to convenience stores and a golf course.

Based on guidelines in its Gaming Compact with New York State, the Seneca Nation is not allowed to build another Class 3 — or full-fledged — casino anywhere west of Route 14, a state highway that extends from Sodus Point southward past Elmira.

But the Seneca could create a slot machine facility anywhere in the region, if it is built on sovereign land. The Seneca do not have sovereign land in the city but could apply to the federal government for such a designation.

To gain that approval, the Seneca likely would need the blessing of the city of Rochester. Mayor Malik Evans said he has heard whispers about an interest by the Nation in a local gaming facility, but only whispers.

“Anything related to gaming, I would hope we would have a conversation,” Evans said. “I’m not necessarily opposed, but I would want a conversation, especially with the challenges we face. Quality of life is always the No. 1 conversation.”

Earlier this spring, Seneca leaders considered bidding on McKinley Mall in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg when the shopping center went up for auction in mid-May. They did not say how they intended to use the mall property before eventually choosing not to bid.

Following that sale, Armstrong told The Buffalo News they still are looking at properties in the region to expand business operations.

“The Seneca Nation continues to explore possible acquisitions in both Western New York and Rochester that could potentially help fuel important economic expansion for the Nation and our people,” he told the News.

The Nation operates several business ventures but gaming facilities are the most lucrative. Rather than tax its approximately 8,000 citizens, the Seneca Nation uses revenue from its business endeavors to provide support services. Gaming accounts for about 70 percent of that revenue.

The Nation owns and operates three full casinos in Western New York: Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in Niagara Falls, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo and Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in the Cattaraugus County city of Salamanca.

There are also three Seneca Gaming & Entertainment facilities: in Irving (Chautauqua County), Salamanca (Allegany County) and Cuba (Allegany County), all of which feature video lottery terminals and bingo.

Aside from gaming, the Seneca own and operates Hickory Stick Golf, an 18-hole course in Lewiston, as well as five Seneca One Stop gas stations and convenience stores.

There is no gaming facility within Monroe Country. The nearest full casino, del Lago Resort & Casino, is in the Seneca County town of Tyre, just off the New York State Thruway at Exit 41 (Waterloo). del Lago is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

Ontario and Genesee counties are home to gaming facilities that feature video lottery terminals (very similar to slot machines) as well as live horse racing. Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, privately owned by Delaware North Cos. of Buffalo, operates in the Ontario County town of Farmington and Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation, owns and operates Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel in Genesee County.

Both Finger Lakes and Batavia Downs rely heavily on customer traffic from Greater Rochester.

As for the Henrietta property that the Seneca bought in 2014: it was sold for a loss in April of 2018. Purchased for $2.75 million in March of 2014, it was sold for $2.6 million, according to documents filed with the Monroe County Clerk’s office.

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