Tag Archives: Seneca Casino

Quick Thoughts

16 Mar

Do Not Be Alarmed - this most likely isn't going to happen (http://www.snopes.com/photos/technology/fallout.asp)

It’s time for another article of thoughts that haven’t yet seen enough yeast to grow into their own columns. The unifying thread? SuperFAIL:

1) President Obama has some unfortunate energy policy timing, advocating increased off-shore drilling prior to the massive Gulf oil spill, and nuclear energy before the continuing disaster in Japan. Not that he is to blame – we are short on energy solutions that are not destructive at normal levels, and catastrophic on the extremes. Irresponsible natural gas exploration is contaminating Pennsylvania, the Canadians are destroying Alberta to free oil from tar sands, and there is nothing practical available to replace them. Hard to move to renewables like wind when our local turbines sit idle far more than they spin. Investment is the only pragmatic strategy if we want an environmentally sustainable energy policy: lots of money to regulate current energy industries to follow existing environmental laws, scraping and reworking from scratch our subsidy system to stop picking winner and losers and instead peg commodities to their true total cost, and basic science investment in research and future technologies. Don’t expect to hear any of that in the near future.

2) The census is complete, so it’s redistricting time, in Erie County and at the state level. In Erie County, the commission to redraw legislative districts, consolidating from 15 to 11, met for the first time. As Artvoice reports, the main topic of conversation was how much to do before data on population counts are actually available. In Buffalo’s petty rice bowl politics, the underlying question is who wins and who loses. Geoff Kelly believes no one wins except Ray Walter. Which is another way of saying, we’re all winning.

On the New York State front, the debate in the GOP controlled Senate is whether to change the constitution to mandate impartial redistricting (a plan with an 11 year delay), do a legislative patch now, or both. So far, only the Republicans and Citizens Union, an independent reform lobby, have weighed in. The Democratic controlled Assembly still has a chance to weigh in with traditional partisan redistricting, and screw up this Good Government push. But if these are the only options presented, we’re winning here too. (And this is the only non-FAIL you will see in this column.) 

3) It’s about to be construction season, and WNYMedia’s own intrepid Andrew Kulyk is filling in well on development watch for Mark Brynes, on prolonged sabbatical. What to watch for in 2011?!?! Not much an Canalside, unless you count a little more decking and bike racks as construction. Work on anything requiring an excavator will wait til the Fall. Also watch for an again delayed Federal Courthouse, that not only bears no resemblance to its graphic sales pitch, but is now rotting from the inside. Speaking of rotting, the steel beams of the Casino are rusting away, and may need to come down, even if a permanent complex is eventually built. Finally, if you are looking for hope, don’t look at the Statler – based upon past divisions between Croce and the Mayor, expect summer fights over the $5 million promised to help rehab the lower levels in time for the Convention That Will Save Buffalo.

Deep Thought

31 Mar

Nobody gives a shit about this anymore. Nobody. It’s as repetitive and inconclusive as the Peace Bridge, Bass Pro, etc., ad nauseum.

News Flash!!!1!!!

9 Mar

Is the point of this article to explain that Seneca cigarettes are less healthy than regular cigarettes? That they’re super-cheap and super-bad for you?

I think if you’re buying a carton of smokes for $13, you’re aware that you’re not buying the finest tobacco product available on the market.

Just sayin’.

Casino: Open & Legal

30 Jan

From the WNYMedia.net article:

A federal judge in Buffalo today rejected a motion to close the temporary Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and hold in contempt the chairman of the agency responsible for approving its legal right to operate.

U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny issued the decision this morning, denying the assertion of the plaintiffs, including Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County, that the casino should be closed. The judge said that the National Indian Gaming Commission’s recent approval of the Seneca Nation’s right to have “Class III” gaming on its Buffalo Creek Territory does not conflict with earlier rulings the judge made in the case last summer. Continue reading

Senecas Win Again

20 Jan

The Seneca’s downtown Buffalo casino is legal again.

Until it’s not again. Worst. Ping-pong game. Ever.

Seneca Nation To New York State: Bring It On

14 Jan

In a press conference held today in Irving, NY, Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr., supported by the Tribal Council, announced a series of actions designed to elevate the Nation’s response level to New York State’s decision to impose a sales tax on wholesalers who supply the Seneca Nation’s tobacco retailers.

“The Council believes the state is once again intending to take action to impose an embargo on tobacco products, which poses a grave threat to recent progress the Nation made to recover from the historic economic limitations inflicted on the Seneca people by the state and federal governments,” President Snyder said. “This justifies taking any and all prudent actions to protect and defend the Nation’s economy and the way of life of the Seneca people.”

The Seneca Nation believes that the state’s effort to collect tax on reservation commerce violates the Treaty of 1842 signed by federal, state and tribal governments.  The Tribal Council approved planning to devise a system for the Nation to collect tolls on the New York State Thruway in Irving; authorized an action filed in the Nation’s tribal courts for an advisory opinion to declare the Thruway an illegal invasion of sovereign Nation territory; and increase to $2 the current per-car toll the Nation charges the state on behalf of motorists using it; and, Senecas are being encouraged to make provisions for stockpiling basic needs.

The Nation’s position regarding the Thruway stems from a Council vote on April 14, 2007 that rescinded the 1954 agreement with the state for use of Nation land for its highway. The Nation and the state have yet to discuss outstanding compensation for past land use, but the state has refused to pay the $1 assessed on motorists since May 12, 2007.

The Council also authorized President Snyder to invoke the provisions of the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 and ask President Obama next week to provide federal troops to protect Indian lands.  Evidently, the tribal council is referring to Article 7 of the Canandaigua Treaty which stipulates:

Lest the firm peace and friendship now established should be interrupted by the misconduct of individuals, the United States and the Six Nations agree, that for injuries done by individuals, on either side, no private revenge or retaliation shall take place; but, instead thereof, complaint shall be made by the party injured, to the other; by the Six Nations or any of them, to the President of the United States

However, Article 5 of that same treaty stipulates as follows:

The Seneca Nation, all others of the Six Nations concurring cede to the United States the right of making a wagon road from Fort Schlosser to Lake Erie, as far south as Buffalo Creek; and the people of the United States shall have the free and undisturbed use of this road for the purposes of traveling and transportation. And the Six Nations and each of them, will forever allow to the people of the United States, a free passage through their lands, and the free use of the harbors and rivers adjoining and within their respective tracts of land, for the passing and securing of vessels and boats, and liberty to land their cargoes, where necessary, for their safety.

Now, I’m far from an expert on Indian treaties, but it would seem that the two articles referenced above are contradictory.  There is no language in that treaty which provides for action by the Seneca Nation to discontinue use of the highways in the event of a treaty violation.  I guess that’s why we have courts, right?

Last month, I recapped the protests of 1997 when the state last pursued collection of taxes on reservation commerce. Are we headed for a redux of violent clashes and tire fires?  Perhaps.

The thing that strikes me as odd about the desperate efforts of New York State to collect taxes on reservation cigarette sales is Governor Paterson’s estimate that the state could realize $62MM in revenue from such a program.  The imposition of a sales or wholesale tax would simply drive down business on the reservation as people would no longer realize significant savings on their purchases.  As sales drop, tax revenue drops…this is not complicated math.  So, New York would depress commerce on the reservation and also not realize near the benefit they estimate would come from such an effort?  Sounds like a lose/lose plan to me.

Also, for some additional reading material on the merits of the state’s effort to collect taxes on Indian to Non-Indian commerce, check out the website of Upstate Citizens for Equality.

Cigarettes, Tires, Tempers, and Tolls

15 Dec

The last time a New York Governor tried to collect taxes on the sales of tobacco products on the state’s Indian reservations, this is what happened…courtesy of Associated Press:

About 1,000 American Indians and their supporters briefly blocked traffic on the New York State Thruway Sunday to protest the state’s collection of sales tax on Indian land.

“This is our land.  This Thruway is ours,” said Indian businessman Art Schindler, brother of Seneca Nation President Michael Schindler.

The demonstration started off peacefully along the side of the Thruway, but a handful of protesters later lit tire fires and scuffled with state troopers in the middle of the road.

Protesters also blocked nearby Route 5 and U.S. Route 20. State police detoured traffic around them.

Several minor injuries were reported.

Protesters and police approached each other to negotiate when fighting broke out.

“They tried to come over to talk to us, but we’re just way past that now,” Art Schindler said. “I can’t control anybody’s reactions. Nobody wanted to hear them.”

Last Sunday, about 200 protesters blocked the Thruway for about 45 minutes in the same spot on reservation land about 25 miles south of Buffalo.

Pataki made a mess of that situation with his embargo of fuel and heating oil shipments to the reservations and the state eventually capitulated.

Today, Governor David Paterson announced his intention to collect sales tax on tobacco products sold on Indian Reservations.  Are we ready for another showdown?  In the balance hangs at least $400 million in annual revenue or the honoring of Indian treaties which date back to the 1700’s.

Quietly, in 2007, the Seneca Nation voted to rescind a 1954 resolution that allowed construction of the Thruway along 300 acres of Seneca territory in the Cattaraugus ReservationThe tribal council said the pact, which paid the Senecas $75,000, had not received the proper federal approvals. In effect, they have declared that the State of New York is trespassing on sovereign Indian land.  From a high level, this would allow them to establish their own toll collection points on the sections of state and federal roads that cross the reservation, including Routes 5 and 20.

They have yet to impose a toll collection system, but perhaps they have simply been waiting for the right time to implement the program.

Paterson may have just provided the impetus for such an action.  If nothing else, there is always the risk of a 1997 redux of the burning tires on the Thruway.

NIGC Issues Buffalo Casino “Notice of Violation”

3 Sep

The National Indian Gaming Commission has issued a Notice of Violation to the Seneca Nation. The wording of the violation orders the Senecas either to shut the facility down within five days, or else pay a $25,000 daily fine pending appeal.

The Senecas issued the following statement:

“The United States is still actively considering its appeal options in the case, and the commission is still reviewing the Nation’s recently submitted gaming ordinance. Decisions on those two elements of the case are likely within the next 30 to 45 days. While legal proceedings are pending before the NIGC, the Seneca Nation will continue to operate the Buffalo Creek facility. The notice of violation has no effect on the Nation’s other gaming facilities. The Nation is pleased that this aspect of the process finally gives the Nation a direct voice in the Buffalo Creek matter for the first time.

The Seneca Nation, as always, will comply with applicable rulings, but will also exercise the full scope of its rights, administratively and judicially. We are confident that the Nation’s gaming rights will be recognized on our sovereign Buffalo Creek territory for the benefit of the Western New York economy.”

Just another day in Western New York.

Dear Joel Rose:

30 Aug

If you’re going to close out an email to your anti-casino recipient list with this:

Meanwhile, we do not have the luxury of ignoring the battle for public opinion. The pro-casino talk show hosts and bloggers have been having a field day, spreading lies about our motivations and our sources of funding, along with the usual nonsense about the likely impact of a casino. It is up to us, that is, it is up to all of us including YOU, to set the record straight. Please do what you can to help win the battle for public opinion.

Perhaps you would then like to ask your benefactors at the Network for Religious Communities and allies at Citizens for Better Buffalo to open the books so we can all see who has received Wendt Foundation largesse?

Only then can we really determine who’s been “spreading lies”. And since I’m not aware of another blog that posted about the casino ruling yesterday, I’m assuming you were referring to me, in which case I’d love for you to show me the basis for your charge that I am “pro-casino”.

I know you’re all about the transparency and accuracy, so I eagerly await the Network’s and CBB’s financial disclosures. After all, you brought it up. Thanks so much.

Love, BP

UPDATE: I have pasted Joel Rose’s response in comments because he claims not to be able to post comments.

Backstory on Buffalo Creek Construction Hiatus

28 Aug

It seems that many of our local reporters, bloggers, and commenters feel the suspension of construction at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino was related to the ongoing lawsuit between the federal government and the Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County.

While the timing of the announcement might lead one to that conclusion, the Seneca Gaming Corporation announced the following in an August 14th SEC Filing:

In light of greater demands on our available cash, increased competition and challenging economic and capital market conditions, the Company, in consultation with the Nation, continues to evaluate the scope, phasing and timing of its expansion plans on the Allegany and Buffalo Creek territories, and is reassessing the scaling and scope of its clubhouse design for the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course. The Company believes that it is early enough in the design and construction process to accommodate appropriate changes to its plans, if necessary.

Evidently, due to poor market conditions, the ongoing mortgage crisis which is causing capital problems for many large scale commercial projects, the Buffalo Creek Casino and expansion of Seneca Allegany have been put on hold.  The SGC warned in its filings that this was a possibility and if the closure was related to the lawsuit, why would they also halt construction on the Allegany project?

This isn’t the only casino project which is facing a funding crunch from financial institutions and a weak economy.  Construction on Boyd Gaming’s $4.8BN Echelon Casino in Las Vegas was recently suspended due to the continuing capital market crunch as was the construction of Pinnacle Casino in Atlantic City.

It is interesting that many would think that the SGC would make an overnight decision to halt construction on a $333MM project based on a court document which is not explicit in its intent to permanently stop the project.  I’m no lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night…and it would appear that Judge Skretny does not have the power to order a temporary or permanent closure of the casino.  Nor does the Chairman of the NIGC, it takes a vote of the full board.

In laymans terms, if the NIGC rules that gambling can take place on this sovereign Indian land, it will happen.  According to Judge Skretny, this is Indian Land and according to new regulations put forth by the NIGC prior to the inital order from Judge Skretny, the land is considered eligible for gambling.

From Skretny’s ruling:

“the Secretary, after consultation with the Indian tribe and appropriate State and local officials, including officials of other nearby Indian tribes, determines that a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, but only if the Governor of the State in which the gaming activity is to be conducted concurs in the Secretary’s determination.”

It would appear that if the NIGC votes in the affirmative and the Secretary of The Interior and David Paterson all agree, we’ll be playing Pai Gow Poker in 2010 on Fulton Street.  If I’m missing something after reading the decision, I’d appreciate someone setting me straight.  It’s difficult to determine who “wins” when both sides claim victory and our local reporters can’t seem to find an independent legal expert to lend an opinion on the matter.