Last evening was the grand opening of the new $130 million gaming facility known as Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. A telltale sign that it was going to be a busy night was that all of the parking lots (and there are a few) looked to be packed to capacity. Once my wife and I figured out which side of the building to enter (work is still underway on what looks to be a main entrance) we followed a steady stream of people who were heading inside to test out their luck on the 808 slots and 18 table games.
Once on the inside, I was surprised by how big the place appeared to be, since it doesn’t exactly command such a formidable presence from the outside. As we walked around, we explored the café and the Buffalo-centric restaurant (wings, Sahlen’s hotdogs, etc) before heading out onto the casino floor where I advised my wife that we were only going to drop 20 bucks on the gaming. When I say “we” I mean the royal “she”, as I am not a gambler, and either is she for the most part… but as they say, “When in Rome…”
After cashing in her $20 for some chips (big spenders), my wife headed straight for the roulette table where she played it safe at the beginning, placing her measly chips “around the outside of the numbers” on spots such as “even” or “red”. Before I knew it she had racked up $200, and with one arm raised in the air she hooted and hollered, announcing her incremental victories to the rest of the table. That’s just about the time that her luck (and her “play it safe” strategy) ran out. After winning time after time, she figured that she was on a roll. So she pushed her stack of chips onto “odd” and the spinning ball of fate was unleashed around the numbers. Of course the ball landed on “even”, which brought her back to her senses and reality, asking “Why did I do that?” I didn’t feel that she needed an “I told you so,” – instead I reminded her that our $20 gambling stint was over, and from there we strolled around the 67,000 square-foot facility watching other people pulling levers and rolling dice.
When we eventually talked to Tony Astran, the publicity manager for the casino, I asked him if there were any intentions to grow the footprint of the gaming operations or add hotel accommodations. He replied that the Seneca Gaming Corporation was very content with the size of the current facility, and he was sure that there were no additional plans for growth. When I asked him if there was any room to grow, he did say that there was land that could be used for an expansion, but there were no plans (he was resolute about this). In my opinion, I am willing to bet (here we go again) that from what I saw last evening, it won’t be long before another announcement is made that there will be additional growth opportunities realized for the site. As I watched dealers swipe away countless chips, with an occasional winner belting out his or her enthusiasm for a win, I could almost envision the rate and direction that this particular casino was going… up and fast.
Is the casino good for Buffalo? Heck, we had a good time last night, but we were super careful not to do anything silly. My wife lost a bunch of money (relatively speaking) that she never had to begin with (other than the initial 20 bucks). We bought a couple of drinks (nothing free here), said our “hellos” and “goodbyes” and walked away chalking it up to another Buffalo experience that we may or may not have again (the verdict is out).
The way I look at it is that if we are going to have a casino, then it should be a nice one. It should make Buffalo look good, not cheap. It should hire locals, which it certainly does, and it should give back to the neighborhood, and it is doing that as well. If there was no casino in Downtown Buffalo, would I be bummed? No. Is it an interesting addition to our urban landscape? Well, it drew me in as a curiosity seeker last evening, and I walked away having had a pretty good time. Unfortunately moderation is not so commonplace, or the casinos would not have their nightly windfalls. That said, I’m sure that the debate over this casino will rage for as long as it stands. And it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.
*Four-level parking ramp with 725 spaces and surface parking for nearly another 400 cars
*Eateries within the casino are: Buffalo Savors Grill, a 102-seat restaurant that includes some of the region’s favorite foods. Just some of the many items on the menu include: chicken wings from Duff’s Famous Wings; beef-on-weck from Charlie the Butcher; Italian sandwiches with family-recipe sauces from Ilio DiPaolo’s; pizza from Franco’s Pizza; desserts and pastries from Chrusciki Bakery, and; gelato from Sweet Melody’s.