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Casino opponents fight for city to end contract with Senecas

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Casino opponents appeared at City Hall Tuesday afternoon encouraging lawmakers to support the end to an agreement with the Seneca Nation for its downtown casino. 

The issue was discussed during a Buffalo Common Council committee meeting.

Delaware District lawmaker Michael LoCurto has proposed a resolution to end the city's contract.  He says the Nation has failed to live up to the agreement.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Delaware District lawmaker Michael LoCurto says sewer & water should be cut off at downtown casino site

"But the city, as part of the agreement, agreed to provide water and sewer services, so they're not honoring the agreement, then why should we honor the agreement.  I think we have the authority to cut off water and sewer services," said LoCurto.

LoCurto said the Senecas have failed to market the downtown casino as a tourist destination and make millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements around the casino area. 

Ellicott District lawmaker Darius Pridgen agrees, and pointed to the Seneca's withholding of casino revenues from  Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

"We have Niagara Falls that is suffering right now, and it is almost as if 'so what, we will move when we want to.'  Buffalo is not receiving what we are suppose to and it is 'so what we want to,'" said Pridgen.

Joel Rose is co-chair of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County. He appeared at a Common Council committee meeting.  Rose calls the casino contract a "mistake". 

"With misinformation and lies, really from the Seneca Gaming Corporation about what it would do if the city would relinquish Fulton Street and hook up the utilities," said Rose. 

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Joel Rose, co-chair of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County

The city's Corporation Counsel will review the matter in executive session.  

Mayor Brown was careful in not taking sides.  He called the agreement that, sold a strip of Fulton Street to the Seneca's, complicated.  But he does not support cutting off services to the Senecas.

"No, absolutely not.  I think any measure to cut off se or water services would be pre mature, problematic, but the council should go forward with its process," said Mayor Brown. 

The Mayor says a number of extending circumstances, including lawsuits against the casino, all effected what the Seneca's promised. 

Seneca president Robert Odawi Porter stated the Nation is on "sovereign land" and it's the choice of the Seneca's to develop what they want, when they want.  

The Senecas now plan to construction a multi-million dollar casino to replace the temporary one in the Cobblestone District.