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Casinos roll the dice on glitzy amenities

     Casinos are racing to build luxury hotels, shopping malls and gourmet restaurants, and Indian-run asinos are chasing the same trend.

     Fine wines, steaks, massages and mud wraps are among the luxury accommodations either planned or available at the three casinos run by the Seneca Gaming Corp. in Western New York.

     But gambling revenue in Indian-run casinos in New York far outpaces money made on non-gambling amenities.
     Casinos in New York today look like Las Vegas before a 1990s evolution changed the strip.

     The proliferation of legalized gambling across the country Ñ from the growth of Native American casinos to the addition of slot machines at many race tracks Ñ has forced Las Vegas to change. Hotels, restaurants and attractions in Las Vegas have taken on their own prominence as a race to build giant resorts has transformed the industry there.

     Non-gambling revenue outpaced gambling revenue on the Las Vegas strip for the first time in 1999, said David G. Schwartz, author of "Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling."

     "The rooms and the restaurants are profit centers now," he said. "It used to be that they were loss leaders, where you would give away the food, give away the rooms, the expectation that you would make it up on the gaming."

     Schwartz pinpoints the beginning of the evolution in the Las Vegas casino to the opening of the Mirage in 1989. The casino boasted a range of amenities that included a rain forest and white tiger habitat.

     "This is the hook. This is the thing that gets them in the door. Nobody's going to come here just to play slot machines," Schwartz said. "That kind of opened the floodgates for, 'We've got to rethink the casino.' They figured out that there are people out there that will come to Vegas just for the food, the hotels and the rooms."
     What do you think Seneca Gaming casinos will look like five, 10 or 15 years in the future? What do you think of the amenities offered or planned for the casinos in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo?

     -- Denise Jewell Gee

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