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Seneca Nation wins legal battle over Buffalo casino

A federal appeals court in New York City has upheld an earlier court decision that the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino fully complies with requirements under federal law. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejects the claim by the Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County that the federal government should not have approved the Seneca Nation gaming operations in Buffalo.

At issue is the Seneca Nation's purchase of its Buffalo Creek Territory, as permitted by Congress in the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990. The court ruled the Senecas properly exercised its authority in purchasing the land and satisfied the requirements of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The casino was built on nine acres of land purchased by the Seneca Nation in 2005. The $130 million Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opened in 2013 with 800 slot machines, 18 table games and three restaurants. 

The appeals court rejected arguments that the Buffalo land should not be eligible for gaming because it was newly acquired land. The court said the Supreme Court has urged that laws designed to benefit Indian tribes be viewed liberally.

“From day one, the Seneca Nation has operated the Seneca Buffalo Creek casino in close cooperation with the federal government, the State of New York, and the City of Buffalo and in compliance with all applicable laws,” stated Seneca Nation President Maurice John Sr. in response to the decision.  “The Nation appreciates the Second Circuit’s vindication of the fundamental proposition that the Nation enjoys full government authority over our lands, and the Court’s rejection of no fewer than three lawsuits that the plaintiffs have waged for years in a futile effort to disrupt the path of progress.”

The Nation recently announced a $40 million expansion plan for the downtown casino, which includes new gaming space and restaurant space. When finished, an estimated 300 new jobs are expected to be created.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.