Seneca Nation Building Own Power Plant for Casino/Hotel

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Seneca Indian Nation is building a power plant to supply its Niagara Falls casino and an adjacent 600-room resort hotel on track to open later this year.

Mickey Brown, chief executive of the Seneca Niagara Gaming Corp., said the $5.6 million plant is expected to pay for itself in six or seven years and save the Seneca Nation $1 million per year in energy costs after that.

The plant will provide heating and cooling and generate electricity for the complex and protect against blackouts like the one that shut down the 2-year-old casino for four hours in August 2003, Brown said.

The casino will still tap Niagara Mohawk for auxiliary power during certain peak times, he said.

"One factor was to be self-suffcient for energy," Brown said, "and another factor is it's going to save money starting in year seven."

The plant, now under construction just south of the casino, is expected to be operational by June 2005, six months before the expected opening of the 26-story hotel. Construction is being overseen by Marina Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company that installed a similar, though much larger, plant for the $1 billion Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.

Because the plant, like the casino and hotel, will be on sovereign territory, the federal government, rather than the state, will oversee regulation.

Brown said the facility would meet or exceed standards that apply off sovereign land.

The casino had gambling revenues of $289.6 million in 2004, according to the Seneca Gaming Corp.'s financial report. A second facility, the Seneca Allegany casino, which opened in May, reported gambling revenues of $47.9 million.

Under an agreement with the state, the Senecas give the state up to 25 percent of slot machine profits and casino host communities get 25 percent of the state's share, or 6.2 percent. The Niagara Falls casino has 3,200 slot machines.

The hotel under construction will have a spa, several restaurants and meeting and concert space.