Henrietta Town Board says 'no' to casinos

03.20.14 | Bob Price

By a 4-0 vote, the Henrietta Town Board approved a resolution Wednesday opposing the establishment of a casino in the town.

The vote came as residents filled the board room, with most of the 18 speakers opposing the casino.

But it was clear before the board meeting how the vote would go.

"We are trying to represent the people who came out and spoke," said town Supervisor Jack Moore.

The Seneca Gaming Corp, which represents the Seneca Nation of Indians in gambling, issued a statement after the vote saying that a new Seneca casino could bring $200 million in in private capital investment and more than 1,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs.

Criticizing the board for acting "prematurely," the statement said that the "first step in developing a project is to engage the community" and to discuss the projects benefits with the Henrietta community."

Phil Pantano, spokesman for the Gaming Corp., gave no indication after the vote whether the Senecas would continue to seek Henrietta as a site for the casino. "Time will tell," he said.

The Senecas declined to appear before the Town Board Wednesday, with Kevin W. Seneca, chairman of the Gaming Corp, saying that "under the circumstances, we feel there is little benefit to make the presentation at this point."

Wednesday's vote came after recent Town Board meetings have been packed with opponents of the casino and after the Gaming Corp., on March 3, purchased 32 acres of vacant land on Clay Road for a casino development site.

Moore said the invitation is open for the Senecas to make a presentation at a future date.

The Town Board's resolution would be considered in a complicated approval process for a casino that involves state and federal officials.

A 1988 federal law gives the U.S. Secretary of the Interior the final say on a casino after consultation with the Indian tribe, state and local officials, and only if the governor of the state concurs.

The casino would have to be "in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the community."