More lawsuits vs. casino in Buffalo

Apr 18, 2006 2:06 AM

Opposition continues against the Seneca’s $125 million Buffalo Creek Casino, which broke ground in December in downtown Buffalo, New York. A third lawsuit will be filed by Erie County.

After a filing by the tribe with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated "the primary market for this casino is expected to be downtown Buffalo and its suburbs," the county jumped on the bandwagon.

They say the principle reason for allowing the casino was to lure tourists from Canada and boost Buffalo’s economy with outside dollars. Now officials worry the casino will only drain local dollars.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra announced the county’s decision to join other lawsuits seeking to block the casino. "We are going to court to fight on behalf of our citizens, our children, our businesses and for the rule of law," Giambra said.

Seneca Gaming spokesman Philip J. Pantano countered with the statement, "We have never ever held the position that the casino will be the be-all and end-all or the panacea. It will be a significant piece of the puzzle in the inner harbor area, but it would not be the one thing that would turn that region around."

The tribe argues that the casino will create 1,000 new jobs and keep gambling and entertainment dollars in the state.

Earlier lawsuits aimed at stopping the casino construction allege that federal laws regarding the citing of Indian casinos were violated, and that the tribe did not follow state and local laws governing historic preservation and environmental reviews.

NIGA WEIGHS IN ON IGRA AMENDMENTS

Last week the National Indian Gaming Association passed two resolutions regarding the proposed changes to IGRA that are being pushed through Congress.

One resolution backs the Section 20 proposal to clarify and set standards for how lands are taken into trust for gaming. The resolution encourages the Department of Interior to work directly with tribal governments.

The second resolution opposes S.2078, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act Amendments, which proposes to eliminate off-reservation gaming and give more regulatory powers to the NIGC. The NIGA resolution states the bill "infringes on Indian sovereignty and tribal self-government, unnecessarily burdens economic development and lawful business transactions, and creates new bureaucratic roadblocks."

CLASS III MASTER PLAN

Meanwhile, Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno, introduced his own bill in the House of Representatives regarding changes to IGRA, The California Chronicle reports. Focusing on the issues that surround Class III gaming, HR 5125 would require each state to enact legislation creating a master plan.

Details of the Class III gaming master plans would include the number of facilities and their locations, how the state will regulate its compacts, how mitigation will be handled, and how input from local communities will be gathered. Approval of new compacts by the Secretary of the Interior would be put on hold until each state developed its plan.

Costa’s goal is to lay a new groundwork that is not easily altered. "Too often, Indian tribes are at the mercy of the shifting political winds of state government," Costa said. "Negotiating a tribal-state compact for the right to engage in Class III gaming on tribal lands is a process complicated by elections, changing attitudes towards the tribe - not to mention the understanding that gaming can be a lucrative business for the state."