From a Seneca Nation point of view, two casinos within a 20-minute drive is not two too many.

The Niagara Region’s top tourism official tends to agree.

“Things could turnout differently,” Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. President David Rosenwasser said. “But as I understand the design and focus of the Buffalo casino, it will be much more attractive to a day visitor.”

That, Rosenwasser said, would make the Buffalo operation distinctly different from Seneca Niagara Casino in the Falls.

“With the addition of the hotel here, it changes (Seneca Niagara Casino) into more of a resort than a day destination,” he said.

The Seneca Nation broke ground Thursday on its third western New York casino, promising another world-class operation that will strengthen — not only the tribe — but the entire region. Seneca Gaming Corp. officials don’t believe the new casino threatens the Falls’ operation.

“It’s probably realistic to think there will be some customers who go to both casinos or only go to the Buffalo casino because it’s closer,” said Phil Pantano, a Seneca Niagara Casino spokesman. “But with the hotel in the Falls, we’re looking to attract people from greater distances. So the Buffalo casino may attract more locals, but the Falls casino is still bigger and has more attractions, so we expect it to draw customers from much greater distances.

With more than 100 table games and 4,100 slot machines, once its hotel opens, the Falls operation with have close to double the gaming options that will be available in Buffalo.

It also will take awhile to construct the new Buffalo casino. Under the terms of the 2002 Casino Compact with New York state, the Senecas had to begin construction by Friday or risk losing exclusive building rights to another tribe. They have until Dec. 9, 2007, to get the casino up and running.

The planned 100,000-square-foot casino is expected to employ 1,000 people with an annual payroll of about $50 million. Seneca officials expect to give Buffalo $5 million to $7 million out of the casino’s slot machine revenues the first year.

The Senecas said they envision a “signature destination” with 2,200 slot machines, 50 gaming tables, restaurants and parking for 2,500 cars.

“We think all our casinos will have their own distinct feel and draw their own unique following,” Pantano said.

Rosenwasser says he expects any losses of customers here in the Falls to be minimal.

“There may be some cannibalization of visitors between the two casinos, but those (who are lost) are probably not what I would call tourists, they would be ‘gamers.’ It’s like what we saw with the opening (in Niagara Falls, Ontario) of the Fallsview casino. Despite what some people worried about, the data shows it didn’t have a detrimental effect on the casino here.”

The tourism chief said a study by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas has shown that a region can support one casino for roughly each one million people in its population.

“With four casinos, two in Ontario and one here and one in Buffalo, we still have enough people here, plus we have an enormous increase (in people) in the tourist season,” Rosenwasser said. “I’m much more concerned with what happens (with legalized gaming) in Pennsylvania than in Buffalo. A lot of our base comes from Erie, Pittsburgh and Cleveland and if there are gaming destinations between here and there, that would concern me.”