WASHINGTON – In the shadow of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement that he wants to build up to three new casinos in Western New York, the Seneca Nation of Indians announced Wednesday that it has received the final federal approval it needs for its purchase of the last parcel of land where the tribe is completing its Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, which has previously approved the Senecas’ purchase of most of the nine-acre casino site, has signed off on the tribe’s purchase of a 0.97 acre parcel along Fulton Street.
“The Seneca Nation has met all of the requirements outlined by the Land Claims Settlement Act to convert the Fulton Street parcel to sovereign Seneca Nation territory,” said Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr.
“The Senecas are investing close to $200 million to create a fun and exciting entertainment destination and, more importantly, an economic generator for the City of Buffalo. The official acknowledgment of the former Fulton Street parcel as Seneca territory is the final piece that will allow us to complete this development.”
Given that the Department of the Interior had previously allowed the Senecas to turn the rest of the casino site into Indian territory, the final approval comes as no surprise, said Joel S. Rose, co-chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County.
Rose said casino opponents continue to pin their hopes on a federal lawsuit that aims to stop the Buffalo casino.
U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny ruled on May 10 that the Senecas had followed all the necessary legal steps to move their Buffalo casino project forward, but Rose said casino opponents hope to file a successful appeal of that ruling.
Nancy J. Pierskalla, acting director of the Office of Indian Gaming at the Department of the Interior, signed off on the last part of the land purchase.
In a memo to staff, she said she had done so because the land meets the standards for purchase set forth in the 1990 Seneca Nation Settlement Act, which requires such land to be near other Seneca territory or part of the tribe’s original land. In addition, she said the state and localities had been given the required 30 days to comment on the purchase and that the secretary of the Interior saw no other reason to stop the purchase.
The Senecas are currently completing an expansion of the Buffalo casino that is set to be finished late this summer.