Brian Hansberry, President and CEO, Seneca Gaming Corp.
Brian Hansberry, President and CEO, Seneca Gaming Corp.
Earlier this summer, Seneca Gaming was able to open its third Class III property in New York State, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo, albeit not without a little controversy from anti-casino forces. Tell us about the opening and how the tribe dealt with contention.
Yes. We were able to open the temporary Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in July, much to the delight of the line of patrons waiting outside the door that morning. Once the National Indian Gaming Commission granted us approval to open, in keeping with the request of a federal judge, our crews then worked tirelessly to prepare the casino to open. Throughout the planning and construction process, our ownersâ€”the Seneca Nation of Indiansâ€”and the Seneca Gaming Corporation board of directors followed all necessary guidelines and kept progress and development as our main focus.
What advice or tips would you give to other casino operatorsâ€”tribal or commercialâ€”in dealing with contention toward their business?
Every jurisdiction has its own regulatory processes and guidelines. Stay within the prescribed guidelines and work hard to show the communities that you are investing in that you are bringing investment, job creation and progress to the area. That is what we have tried to do every day that we have been open here in western New York.
OK, back to the real highlightâ€”Seneca Buffalo Creek is now open and operating. Share the current highlights of this property for our readers.
The temporary casino has been extremely popular, but is exactly thatâ€”a temporary casino with 124 slot machines. The real highlight is what the opening of the temporary casino clears the way for us to do: develop a signature, world-class permanent Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino with room for approximately 2,000 slot machines, 50 table games and the full-service environment that people have come to expect from Seneca Gaming Corporation. We are currently finalizing our plans for the permanent Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino complex with an eye toward opening our doors by 2010.
Seneca Gamingâ€™s two earlier propertiesâ€”Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls and Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamancaâ€”have enjoyed a good amount of success thus far too. Whatâ€™s your take on the New York gaming market and Seneca Gamingâ€™s role in it?
Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel and Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel have both performed extremely well. Combined, the two properties attracted more than 12 million visitors last year, and 2007 has gone very well to date.
In terms of the market, we believe that we are the premier operator in New York. We are the only group to operate multiple full-service properties, and are competing well with other casino resorts across the northeast.
While Seneca Gaming itself was established in 2002, the Seneca Nation of Indians has had experience with bingo and Class II operations dating back long before that, correct?
Yes, the Seneca Nation had been involved in and continues to operate successful bingo and Class II operations on its Allegany and Cattaraugus Territories. These facilities had been in operation for several years before the Nationâ€™s Class III gaming compact with New York State was approved.
How would you describe your management philosophy? How do you want/ expect Senecaâ€™s gaming operations to run?
What separates our operations from other resortsâ€”aside from the product we offerâ€”is the service we provide to our guests. The reason we have been able to be successful is that we operate as one team. We have been extremely fortunate to attract a team of incredibly dedicated professionals to both Seneca Niagara and Seneca Allegany and they have helped us foster an environment of teamwork among every person at Seneca Gaming Corporation. This was evident when we opened the permanent Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel earlier this year. My goal is to connect with our more than 4,200 employees as best as I can and to keep building on the team environment. Some of the best ideas for our operations are on the gaming floor, and itâ€™s important for employees to have the ability to express those ideas and help us all succeed.
Aside from the obvious benefits of job creation, taxes and other economic benefit the gaming operations bring, Seneca Gaming is also heavily involved in community efforts as well. Tell us about some of these, and why theyâ€™re important.
Seneca Gaming Corporation has become an integral part of the communities we call home. Aside from being one of the regionâ€™s largest and fastest-growing employers with more than 4,200 jobs, we have been an incredible supporter of local business. In fact, we conducted more than $90 million worth of business with local companies last year.
But, it goes beyond that. We have been a strong and proud partner with many charitable causes throughout Western New York, such as the Seneca Diabetes Foundation, the United Way, Women & Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Buffalo, and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, among others. These efforts are important because this is our way of embracing the community and working to make the lives of people who need our support better. I think itâ€™s important not only to be a community leader by way of the economic dynamics that our operations create, but also by leading by example and trying to help every aspect of the community grow stronger.
Brian Hansberry is president and CEO, Seneca Gaming Corporation. His career in the gaming industry began in 1978 as part of the original team that opened Resorts International in Atlantic City. After many managerial stints in casinos in New Jersey and Louisiana, Hansberry joined Seneca Gaming Corporation in 2002 shortly before Seneca Niagara Casino opened its doors. In 2003, he opened the Seneca Allegany Casino and served as general manager of that property until late 2006, when he moved back to Seneca Niagara as that propertyâ€™s general manager. Earlier this year, Seneca Gamingâ€™s board of directors selected Hansberry to serve as president and CEO of the company and oversee all three of its properties. Hansberry recently spoke to Casino Journal contributing writer Regina Lafay about the companyâ€™s growth, its recent challenges in opening its newest property, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, and what the tribally-run corporation has given back to the community.