A downtown Buffalo casino is nearly finished with its $40 million dollar expansion. Casino officials invited local reporters to preview some of the new additions Thursday.
Upon entering the new expansion entrance on Michigan Street, a large video board greets visitors. That board, casino officials say, will present a mix of content including Buffalo themes, casino information and Seneca cultural segments.
The main gaming floor has been expanded to include 250 new slot machines. A dedicated, enclosed non-smoking gaming section provides 140 additional slots.
On the ground floor, a restaurant known as The Creek will open in the near future. Upstairs there's a new eatery that has just opened, WD Bar & Grille, that features a balcony view of downtown Buffalo attractions including Riverworks and KeyBank Center.
Seneca Buffalo Creek general manager Joanne Israel says the casino is already seeing a return on its investment.
"As soon as we opened the expansion floor, we did much better than expected the first few weeks," Israel said. "It was on time and on budget and we're doing a very good job with that. The response from our patron base has been huge."
The restaurants, she said, will especially support Seneca Buffalo Creek's partnerships with other downtown attractions, including KeyBank Center.
"We have a lot of people that come in and the first thing they say is, what do you have to eat?" she said.
The Seneca Nation of Indians, who also operate casinos in Salamanca and Niagara Falls, opened their Buffalo casino in 2007 in a temporary structure. The permanent building was opened in 2013. Seneca officials say since they opened the Seneca Niagara Casino in 2002, the nation has invested more than $1 billion in its gaming and entertainment facilities.
They say unlike corporate-run casinos elsewhere in the U.S., the Senecas have an attachment to the land on which they're investing.
"This has been part of the Seneca Nation's homeland for a long time before there was a City of Buffalo or Erie County," said Kevin W. Seneca, vice chairman of the casino's board of directors. "We take a little more pride than another corporation would with the area."
The expansion project, according to casino officials, has created 300 new jobs, 200 of which have been filled.
A formal grand opening celebration is planned for the spring.