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By Mike Hudson

Al Jacobs is a veteran of more than 30 years in the casino business.

He's worked as a blackjack, roulette, baccarat and Caribbean Stud dealer and served as table game manager at some of the top casinos in Las Vegas, including the Horseshoe, Riviera, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

He has a degree in hotel and restaurant management and served as a consultant for the private developers who launched the Majestic Star riverboat casino in Indiana.

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He's also a registered member of the Seneca Nation and a 1972 graduate of Salamanca High School.

So when Jacobs heard that the Senecas were going to open a casino in Niagara Falls, he jumped at the opportunity to come home. He personally handed his resume to then-casino personnel director Mary Beth DeFazio and was called back for an interview by casino official Mike Spiller.

The November 2002 interview turned out to be a wakeup call for Jacobs, who was seeking a job as an assistant general manager at the Seneca Niagara Casino.

"I was told (by Spiller) that no Senecas were being hired on the floor above the level of pit boss," Jacobs told the Reporter in an exclusive interview. "It was clear to me right then that the whites were running the Seneca Nation."

In the United States, such an admission would be an actionable offense, covered by a myriad of civil rights laws.

Could you imagine if somebody in the personnel department of a private company told an applicant that, say, no women would be hired except as secretaries or no blacks would be hired except as janitors?

But the interview took place on Seneca land, a fact that makes Jacobs' version of events all the more odious.

"I felt like I took a slap on the face for the Seneca Tribe," Jacobs said. "And then I felt like I got raped."

While the main beneficiaries of the casino were supposed to have been the Senecas living on the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations and the citizens of Niagara Falls, the only ones who seem to be profiting from the deal are the shadowy Malaysian billionaire Lim Goh Tong -- who loaned the Senecas the millions needed to open the casino at the usurious interest rate of more than 30 percent -- casino kingpin G. Michael "Mickey" Brown and the members of the Seneca Tribal Council who rolled over to let the deal go through.

Jacobs, who's been pushing for Seneca gaming for decades, said his people were plain misinformed when it came to the financing deal with Lim.

"When Barry Snyder and Cy Schindler told the people that there was no other way to get the financing, well, let me say, they apparently didn't do their research," he said.

Jacobs added that, over the years, he has been approached by any number of top casino financiers interested in taking part in legalized Seneca gambling.

"Once they knew I was a Seneca, and that I'd been lobbying both on the Nation and in Washington, they were eager to participate," he said. "None of these people were asked to the table before Lim got the deal."

Prior to the casino deal, the Senecas had $20 million in the bank and no debt.

Currently, they're about $400 million in debt and have around $10 million in the bank.

Similar financial difficulties also plagued the Pequot Indians in Connecticut after Mickey Brown arranged a similar deal with Lim for financing the Foxwoods Casino there.

Seneca activists are currently gearing up for the November tribal elections.

Thus far, the only two announced candidates for tribal president are Schindler and Snyder, both of whom belong to the same party and have come out pretty much in favor of the status quo insofar as the casino is concerned.

One thing is certain.

The people who were supposed to have benefited from the casino -- rank-and-file Senecas and residents of the Falls -- have gotten nothing but the shaft.

More city restaurants and taverns have closed in the 20 months since the casino opened than in the 20 months prior.

On the reservations, poverty is still the norm, despite the casino's million-dollar-a-day take.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 31 2004