U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny Monday denied another motion from Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County to delay resolution of its challenge to the legality of the $130 million Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
The case seeks to overturn the National Indian Gaming Commission chairman’s approval of the Nation’s gaming ordinance authorizing gaming at the Buffalo Creek Territory. Rather than proceeding directly to the merits of its challenge, however, CACGEC has spent much of the past three years seeking authorization from Judge Skretny to engage in a fishing expedition.
This was based on CACGEC’s unfounded allegations that officials at the United States Department of the Interior – who did not make the final decision to authorize the
Nation’s gaming ordinance, as that decision rests in the hands of the NIGC – had a conflict in approving regulations regarding the permissible scope of gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But Judge Skretny Monday strongly rejected CACGEC’s third motion related to alleged conflicts:
“In sum, other than rehashing arguments previously rejected, plaintiffs have offered no basis for authorizing further discovery in this administrative record case.”
This setback for CACGEC brings the group’s case against the federal government closer to a decision from the Buffalo federal court. The Seneca Nation is not a direct party to the CACGEC’s lawsuit that seeks to reverse NIGC’s approval of casino gaming at Buffalo Creek, though the Nation has an obvious interest in the outcome.
“We are of course pleased with the judge’s dismissal of CACGEC’s latest motion and hopeful that this will pave the way for a resolution of the underlying case,” said Nation President Robert Odawi Porter. “The case brought by this small, elite group that is solely directed at Buffalo Creek clearly cannot stand on its merits. The law permitting our use of our land for gaming is very clear.”
CACGEC filed suit in March 2009 to derail gaming at Buffalo Creek and the economic development that comes with a casino. Buffalo Creek, which has operated for five years in a temporary slots-only building, will open as an entirely new full-service casino a year from now, absent adverse court action.
Seneca Gaming Corp. planners redesigned the project to emphasize a smaller casino that integrates better into the surrounding waterfront.
“We remain confident that the U.S. Justice Department will prevail in this lawsuit and that our $130 million casino, with great input from the surrounding waterfront community, will open in 12 months, adding to the appeal of Buffalo’s burgeoning Canalside area,” President Porter said.
“In the meantime, we’d suggest that the plaintiffs shift their efforts away from attacking legitimate economic development in Buffalo and the Seneca Nation’s positive efforts to contribute to improving our home here in Western New York. They should stop trying to turn back the clock on progress and investment in Buffalo,” President Porter said.
In federal court proceedings in July, Judge Skretny set up a briefing schedule for the U.S. Justice Department’s summary judgment motion for the fall. This motion will decide the overall case about whether the National Indian Gaming Commission properly approved of gaming at Buffalo Creek.
The schedule requires the plaintiffs’ motion showing why the case shouldn’t be dismissed to be filed by Sept. 20, with the government responding by Oct. 19, and plaintiff replies to that due Nov. 8. Following that process, the case will be submitted to the judge for decision that could come in late winter or early spring.