Congressman calls for improvements to Erie Canal Harbor, Cobblestone District, Lower Main Street, not windfalls for governments
BUFFALO, NY—Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) today called for an estimated $30 million in state and local revenues derived from the operation of a Buffalo casino by the Seneca Nation of Indians to be exclusively dedicated to economic development and tourism in the lower Main Street area of downtown Buffalo, with a specific emphasis on the enhancement of cultural tourism in Buffalo and Western New York as a complement to operation of a Buffalo casino.
Higgins is calling upon state, county and city leaders to agree to a plan where revenues paid to these governments that are derived from the operation of the Seneca Nation’s proposed Buffalo casino be reinvested in the local community, most particularly as a means to enhance and improve the region’s efforts toward cultural tourism. The revenue should not, according to Higgins, simply be used as a means to provide revenue to the general fund budgets of the three governmental entities.
“For many years, leaders in this community have viewed the operation of a casino as one element of a larger downtown economic development strategy,” said Higgins. “Now that the operation of a Buffalo casino is nearly upon us, we need to take this opportunity to make certain that the revenues generated are not lost in some governmental ‘black hole,’ but are instead turned around and dedicated to tangible improvements to an economic development strategy that will benefit the entire community,” Higgins added.
According to published accounts, in 2004, Seneca Niagara Casino, located in the city of Niagara Falls, NY, sent more than $55 million in revenue to the state, the city of Niagara Falls and to Niagara County. According to Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder, the first year of operation in Buffalo is estimated to provide between $25-30 million to the state of New York, with $5-7 million estimated to be sent to Buffalo and Erie County. Higgins argues that revenues dedicated to Buffalo and Erie County under the same state compact would achieve their highest and best use through improvements that make the surrounding area more tourist-friendly and more amenable to economic development. Investment in the redevelopment of the nearby Cobblestone District and in the proposed interpretive museum that is a part of the Erie Canal Harbor project are outstanding examples, says Higgins, of where revenue derived from casino gaming should be dedicated.
”Buffalo needs an ambitious development strategy using the new gaming revenue to improve our existing cultural destinations and create new ones,” added Higgins. “Projects like the Erie Canal Harbor project interpretive museum will tell the world the story of Buffalo's unique place in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the further development of the areas and institutions like the historic Cobblestone District, the Buffalo Zoo, Shea’s O’Connell Performing Arts Center, the Frank Lloyd Wright Filling Station project, the Buffalo Museum of Science and the dozens of other important institutions will offer a variety of viable options to all those who visit Buffalo, ” Higgins added