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Opponents say Indian casino illegal 7-07

By CAROLYN THOMPSON
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A group looking to shut down the Seneca Indian
Nation's newest casino will return to federal court later this week
"supremely confident" of a win, its attorneys said Monday.

"Citizens for a Better Buffalo," which includes Erie County, former
U.S. Rep. John LaFalce, business owners and others, will claim in
legal filings that a newly opened temporary casino and a planned
permanent facility are illegal because the casino site is not
sovereign land.

The Seneca Nation opened the interim Buffalo Creek Casino July 3, a
day after the National Indian Gaming Commission found that the
off-reservation property qualified as Indian lands under federal
Indian gaming regulations.

Opponents attacked the finding as flawed and said it only repeated an
earlier "erroneous decision" by the Interior Department.

LaFalce said the Senecas and federal officials have misapplied the
Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990, which he co-authored, to push
gambling in Buffalo. He said his bill was meant only to renegotiate a
lease agreement with the Senecas for land occupied by the city of
Salamanca.

"The bill had absolutely nothing to do with gambling," LaFalce said.

A spokesman for Seneca Gaming Corp., the tribe's gambling business,
did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The opponents' earlier federal lawsuit stalled in January when U.S.
District Judge William Skretny ordered the NIGC to review its 2002
approval of the tribe's gambling ordinance, saying the agency had not
properly examined whether the Senecas' purchased land met the
exceptions for off-reservation casinos, which are otherwise illegal
in New York state.

Attorney Joseph Finnerty said that with the review completed, the
group could move forward with its challenge of the findings.

"(The) issue is the status of the Seneca land in Buffalo. That is
the be-all, end-all, sole focus of our effort and our lawsuit. So
finally, we're going to be heard on that," Finnerty said at a news
conference in the city's historic Cobblestone District, where the
small new casino with its 124 slot machines, snack bar and cigarette
stand, operates.

"We are supremely confident that ... we will prevail in court," the
lawyer said.

The Seneca Nation, which operates casinos in Niagara Falls and
Salamanca, was given permission to open three western New York
casinos under a 2002 agreement with Gov. George Pataki. In exchange,
the Senecas must give 18 percent of slot machine profits to the state
to share with the host communities.
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