Tribe spreads a blanket in Buffalo

Dec 13, 2005 2:52 AM

Last week, Native Niche looked at tribes in California who are attempting to reclaim ancestral lands. Well, here’s one for the record books — as of Dec. 3, nine acres in downtown Buffalo became the sovereign territory of the Seneca Nation.

The tribe purchased the land in October for $2.7 million as part of a land claim settlement with the state of New York. Now that the parcel is a sovereign site, it’s exempt from local, state and federal taxes.

Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello has supported the Seneca’s goal from the beginning, and says the city will continue to provide services to the site such as water, sewer, fire and police.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week at the site, where the tribe is planning a casino development. They are also negotiating with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in hopes of developing a casino on the second floor of a nearby light-rail facility. The city anticipates that the project will provide 1,000 new jobs and bring in $7 million in revenue sharing.

But there is opposition to the casino. Some factions simply don’t want gambling because of the potential for negative effects, such as bankruptcy, crime, divorce and other vices associated with gambling.

Another faction wants to preserve the 1914 out-of-service grain elevator on the property, which must be razed to accommodate a casino. Preservationists say the grain elevator is a remnant of Buffalo’s milling past.

No slots in PA

Gaming in Pennsylvania took a hit last week when Rep. Paul Clymer (R) introduced a bill to repeal legislation from 2004 allowing the installation of 61,000 slot machines at 14 sites across the state. Clymer said the casinos would harm the state’s "cultural heritage, economic growth and legislative process."

But Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, tribal chairman of the Mohegans of Connecticut, is being patient. "Every big project has its ups and downs," he told The Day, "Things did not happen overnight here at Mohegan."

The Mohegans have invested over $500 million in Pennsylvania’s young gaming industry. Earlier this year, they purchased the Pocono Downs Raceway and five off-track betting facilities.

If the bill to repeal the law gains support in the state legislature, Gov. Edward Rendell is expected to veto it.

Arnold’s compacts
moving forward

This week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote on the first agreement reached under the new gaming compacts negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The agreement with the Viejas Indian Band includes a payment by the tribe of more than $1.2 million to the county for road improvements. The Viejas are planning an expansion of the casino on their reservation.

Under the agreement with the county, the tribe will also compensate the sheriff’s department, offer gambling addiction services, and provide its own fire and emergency services.

Four tribes signed new compacts with the governor last year — a source of controversy among California tribes. The compacts allow an unlimited number of slot machines in exchange for greater revenue sharing with the state. Tribal leaders opposed to the new compacts say the Viejas, and others, are sacrificing their autonomy and setting a bad precedent for future compacts.

The Viejas and Ewiiaapaayp band are also planning side-by-side casinos on the reservation.