Seneca Nation not allowed into lawsuit about its off-reservation casino

A federal judge refused to let the Seneca Nation intervene in a lawsuit that challenges its off-reservation casino in Buffalo, New York.

Judge William Skretny said the tribe waited too long to file its motion to intervene. He also noted that the tribe’s interests are being adequately represented by the federal government and that the tribe’s participation would not greatly benefit the case.

Skretny said the tribe can continue to submit briefs as a friend of the court but the tribe plans to appeal.

Skretny has yet to rule on the main issue in the case. Opponents say the land acquired for the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is not eligible for gaming.

The tribe acquired the casino site in 2005. Normally, land acquired after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 can’t be used for gaming.

But IGRA contains an exception for land acquired in connection with a land claim settlement. In this case, the tribe purchased the site with funds that were authorized by the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990.

The SNSA dictates that the tribe’s acquisition will be held in restricted fee status. So the National Indian Gaming Commission concluded that the land claim exception was satisfied.

However, in a decision issued in the final hours of the Bush administration, the NIGC also said the IGRA exceptions do not apply to restricted fee lands. The NIGC said the site qualified for gaming under other definitions in IGRA.

Get the Story:
Judge rules on multiple casino issues (Business First of Buffalo 3/30)
Judge denies Seneca entry into suit (The Buffalo News 3/31)

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