Judge Rules Against Seneca Permanent Casino in Buffalo

On July 8th, 2008, a federal judge has decided that gaming is not permitted on a nine acre land where the Seneca Indian Nation has begun constructing a $333 million casino facility, leaving the fate of one of the most expensive casino projects in Buffalo hanging in limbo. In a 127 page decision, U.S. District Judge William Skretny overturn a decision made by the National Indian Gaming Commission to permit gaming on the off-reservation site, which the tribe bought in 2005.

Judge Skretny said that it is not possible for the Seneca tribe to conduct gaming on the land they have bought in 2005 because it is not part of a land claim. The Seneca tribe has been managing a small temporary gaming facility while constructing a permanent facility. Seneca tribe President Maurice John commented that they are still discussing their options with federal officials who have the authority over Indian gambling.

Critics of the casino and who filed the case against the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of Interior commented that even the temporary facility should be shutdown. Richard Lippes, the lawyer for the Citizens for a Better Buffalo commented that the tribe will be violating the constitution of New York if they continue offering gaming in the area.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not allowing gaming on land bought after 1988 except in some cases like when the land was a part of a land claim. The NIGC commented that the Buffalo land met that condition because the Seneca tribe received the funds from the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990. The act renegotiated a disadvantageous lease agreement with the Seneca Tribe for a land in Salamanca.

The Seneca tribe initially planned a $125 million casino facility in Buffalo but expanded plans last year to feature a twenty-two luxury hotel, three acre Public Park and an artificial creek.