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Senecas Form Gaming Corporation

By Joyce Kryszak

Irving, NY – The Seneca Tribal Council has approved a plan that could bring the long-stalled casino compact closer to being a done deal.

But it is a plan that once again has created controversy among Nation members.

Tribal leaders voted late Thursday on five resolutions - including the creation of an Seneca Gaming Corporation.

The actions, including approval of a Class III Gaming Ordinance, allows the autonomous body full control over the two proposed casinos in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

The Council also appointed five of the board's seven members board, including one non-Seneca member, Natalie Hemlock.

Seneca Nation President Cyrus Schindler, who will not be eligible for re-election this November, was also appointed to a three-year term on the Corporation board.

A Tort Claims Ordinance was also passed, which casino opponents say waives the Nation's sovereign immunity, by allowing non-seneca Casino guests to sue the Nation.

Opponents see the Tribal Council's actions as an end-run around the legal and labor issues that stood in the way of finalizing the compact.

However, Schindler said the corporation will make no changes to the compact approved by Nation members in May.

"It means nothing in terms of the compact," said Schindler.

"This is just something that the Nation is just going along, and has been working along, to put in place, that the Nation has to do for itself."

But Susan Abrams, head of Senecas Against Casinos, said the corporation is part of a scheme to circumvent contested labor issues.

"When we passed the referendum on May 14th, it said any agreements must come before the people," said Abrams. "Now, what are they doing? They are drafting any of the questionable and offensive material in this manner."

"I think this plan and this strategy was implemented right from the get-go," Abrams added.

Abrams said she believes Governor Pataki will now readily sign the compact, knowing that legal issues can be resolved and labor unions will be gauranteed access - not by a change in compact langauge, but by the authority of the Corporation.

Schindler adamently denied that, saying that the Corporation would uphold the terms of the compact.

And according to Schindler, as of Thursday night, he said he has not spoken with Pataki, nor has any date for a signing of the compact been set.