Judge William M. Skretny has asked the National Indian Gaming Commission to do what he says they must: Shut down the casino.
Part of the reason the casino's future hangs in the balance has to do with interpretation of laws that were in place at the time of Skretny's decision. In early July, Judge Skretny declared gambling at the Buffalo Creek Casino site illegal based on restricted use laws, while recognizing the land on which it sits as being sovereign. In the wake of his declaration, Skretny has asked the NIGC, a federal entity, to enforce his final decision.
The Senecas promised business as usual, and have since continued to build their new casino at the site, while operating their temporary annex full of slot machines. During a press conference yesterday with Seneca leaders, Seneca Treasurer Kevin Seneca declared, "I believe the NIGC is on our side and there will be a lot happening in the next 10 to 12 days."
When asked for specifics of what he alluded to, Seneca answered, "I'd rather not say," but he did say that he believed that the Nation would prevail.
Seneca Gaming Corporation chairman Barry E. Snyder Sr. and Kevin Seneca
Seneca reiterated that the Nation wasn't in the lawsuit. "This is between the federal government and the Department of Justice," Seneca offered.
"The opponents of the casino are a small, vocal minority," Seneca said. "I don't know for what reasons. Moral? They don't need to come in." He went on to say that the casino would offer 2,500 to 3,000 jobs in "an economic climate that's at rock bottom."
Saying that the Wendt Foundation's contribution to the Coalition Against Casino Gambling was frustrating due to the fact that it was underwriting casino activities up until two years ago, Seneca added, "Give us a chance. We'll bring prosperity back to Western New York."
A member of the media asked how the Senecas felt, having had their casino plans driven from Cheektowaga to Buffalo through a lawsuit, and now having another lawsuit that would keep them from continuing in Buffalo. "I can't tell you how I feel," Seneca said. After a long pause he continued, "We're looking out for our members. All we want to do is bring back economics. All money made is funneled right back into WNY."
In an earlier press conference, casino opponents Citizens for a Better Buffalo (CBB) celebrated Skretny's directive to the NIGC as a sure bet that gambling would be stopped and that the Buffalo Creek project currently under construction would never be opened as a gambling venue, if completed.
CBB attorney Richard Lippes said, "The judge is directing the NIGC, saying that they must enforce the law...that they have no discretion where the law is concerned." The CBB sees this latest development as a win.
Though a set of regulations within the law changed, Lippes stated, "The judge feels that the regulations should have been brought to the attention on the court. The regulations do not trump the law. The judge has spent a significant amount of time reviewing this and has indicated that the law has been in place for a century, and the law says the NIGC is the enforcement agency."
CBB attorney and former US Rep. John Lafalce
As for an aftermath of the possible decision to halt casino activity, including the completion of the new casino, Lippes said that the money the Senecas put into the project was, "spent at their own peril," and the Senecas would have no recourse with the government in collecting any losses.
"They say that they expect to take $150 million out of the community each year through the casino, while every study that's been done shows that for every casino job gained, 1 1/2 to 2 jobs are lost," Lippes said. "As for the city, the money they get back--less that 5 percent--will probably be less than the cost of city services they'll have to supply to the casino."
Following the Seneca and CBB press conferences yesterday, Mayor Byron Brown issued the following statement: The legal review process regarding the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino continues to run its course and the City remains committed to the largest private development project in the history of Buffalo, the creation of more than 1000 jobs and receiving 100 percent of the estimated $5 to $7 million a year in revenue as the host municipality.