New York
Artvoice: NIGC wrong on Seneca Nation casino

"During the day a Seneca Nation marshal stands guard over the parking lot. He walks back and forth or stands still with his arms folded across his chest, mostly staying in the paved area between the flags and the casino entrance. Now and then, when something catches his interest, he sallies forth.

He was there to provide security on the periphery of the temporary casino the Seneca Nation of Indians opened July 3 on their nine-acre site near the Perry Street Projects. They opened for business only a few hours after Philip N. Hogen, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), sent a letter to Seneca President Maurice A. John, Sr., saying those nine acres were not only Indian land but the very narrowly defined kind of Indian land on which off-reservation Class III gambling can take place.

The thrust of Hogen’s determination letter seems to be that since the Seneca Nation of Indians officials voted that the land they owned was gambling-eligible it was therefore gambling-eligible. For casino opponents, this is like the Buffalo Bills saying they were really winners of one of those lost Superbowl games and therefore Superbowl champions after all because they had a lockerroom vote and that, folks, is the way the vote came out. You change laws by votes, you change political office holders by votes, you pick Miss America by votes, they say—but you don’t change facts by votes.

If the logic in Hogen’s letter were valid, the Senecas could, if they had another governor as hungry for money as George Pataki was in 2002 and a legislature as docile as New York’s was the same year, buy huge parcels of private property, turn them into gambling joints, taking them off the tax rolls and out from under the state’s wide range of protective laws forever. Rockefeller Center, say, or downtown Buffalo. The Seneca’s nine acres was bought with only a few dollars of SNSA money and millions of dollars of Niagara Falls Seneca casino money. That’s a ticket that could be parlayed indefinitely."

Get the Story:
Can the Senecas Buffalo Judge Skretny? (Artvoice 7/19)