Casino opponents
rally supporters

Feb 7, 2006 10:55 AM

Opponents of the Seneca Indian Nation’s plans for a casino in downtown Buffalo have filed a second lawsuit seeking to block construction. Citizens for a Better Buffalo have filed suit in the state Supreme Court, claiming that state and local laws regarding historic districts and environmental review have been ignored, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit charges Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Byron W. Brown, former Mayor Anthony Masiello, the Common Council and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, and claims their actions were "an attempt to avoid public input, public scrutiny and a debate on the public harm of the proposed casino project."

Citizens for a Better Buffalo say they are worried about increases in crime, traffic, pollution, noise and the loss of historic structures.

The lawsuit cites violations of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the state’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law and the City of Buffalo Environmental Review Ordinance. Also under attack is the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is accused of violating its own policy on environmental justice, which requires that particular attention be paid to impoverished areas.

The nine-acre casino site purchased by the Seneca includes a 1930s grain elevator and is located in a historic downtown area. The population surrounding the site is also notoriously poor. Thomas D. Lunt, of the Margaret E. Wendt Foundation, said they are supporting the lawsuit because, "Someone had to give a voice to those who can’t afford it."

Last month a suit was filed that accused U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and NIGC officials of ignoring the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act when they approved the casino proposal negotiated between Pataki and the Seneca tribe.

No live games for
Cherokee Harrah’s?

There is some confusion among tribal leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Last week Vice Chief Larry Blythe told tribal members that North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D) said ”˜no’ to allowing Las Vegas-style card games at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Blythe’s comments came after a tribal council briefing on gambling negotiations. But Principal Chief Michell Hicks has said that everything is still on the table and there would not be a final agreement "until I sit down with the governor."

Where does Gov. Easley stand? No one really knows. The governor’s office contends that permitting live card dealers is still part of the casino talks. Other reports say the governor is concerned about bringing in live dealers, but he won’t say why.

The tribe and Gov. Easley’s attorneys have been negotiating a change in the state’s gaming compact to allow dealers for games such as blackjack and poker.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is currently limited to video gambling machines and digital blackjack with a live dealer.

Hicks said the governor’s team has agreed to other ways to expand gambling operations such as extending credit to gamblers, removing the $75,000-jackpot cap and offering progressive jackpots that work in conjunction with other casinos.

The casino is the largest private employer west of Asheville with more than 3,000 workers and brings in an estimated $155 million a year. The tribe says allowing live tables would create another 430 jobs.

Sign here, please

The Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine has been hitting the streets. They recently gathered more than 61,000 signatures in an effort to place the question of a Washington County racino before the voters in November, the Bangor Daily News reported.

The tribe hopes to build a commercial racetrack and slot machine complex similar to the Hollywood Slots facility that opened last fall in Bangor. Currently, Maine law prohibits gambling, with the exception of the facility in Bangor.

Tribal Rep. Fred Moore was confident the question would make it to this year’s ballot. "This is really a reflection of the partnership that’s developed between the tribe and its neighbors in Washington County," he told the Bangor Daily News.

Gaming opponents are waiting anxiously to see if the question makes the ballot. Dennis Bailey of Casinos No! said a racino would make Washington County even poorer, and that one racino would lead to more.

In 2003, Maine voters rejected a proposal to build a $650 million casino in the southern part of the state.