Senecas pick up support in casino fight

The Seneca Nation of Indians has landed some powerful support in its effort to keep the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino open and to reverse an earlier order to close the downtown gaming facility.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins and Robert Williams, a top official with the New York State Bureau of Gaming Operations, all filed supporting affidavits as part of the Seneca Nation’s legal brief that opposes the closing of the interim casino. The filing is the latest chapter in a growing list of legal maneuvers connected to Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

The briefs were filed late Nov. 4 to meet a court-ordered deadline.

The Seneca Nation filed the brief as part of its attempts to overturn rulings made by U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny, who this summer said the nine-acre parcel of land the Indian tribe owns along South Park Avenue is sovereign territory but not gaming eligible. Skretny, however, has not ordered the National Indian Gaming Commission to force the closure of the casino.

Skretny made his ruling as part of a complex legal action filed by casino opponents who want the Buffalo facility closed.

The Seneca Nation opened the interim casino in July 2007 and last fall started work on a permanent USD 333 million facility. Work on the new casino, which is to include a hotel, was halted in late August due to uncertain economic conditions, the Senecas said, and not the Skretny ruling.

“To prohibit gaming on the nine acres that has been decreed Indian land would deprive Buffalo of a new source of much-needed revenue for future economic development projects,” Brown said in his affidavit.

The casino is expected to create more than 1,000 permanent jobs plus another 1,000 construction-related jobs.

The casino, this year alone, generated USD 5.2 million in revenue sharing obligations to New York state.

A fully developed casino is expected to generate USD 9 million in new revenues for Buffalo. The Seneca Nation had agreed to make nearly USD 7 million in infrastructure improvements around the permanent casino site and spend USD 1.7 million annually to market the casino as well as the city of Buffalo and its attractions outside of the immediate region.

“In these difficult times, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino has proven to be an important source of revenue for the local economy,” Collins wrote in his affidavit. “And, it is projected to be an even far more significant contributor to the Erie County economy when its permanent facility is completed.”