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U.S. Seeks Transfer of Buffalo Creek case to NIGC

July 24, 2008

BUFFALO - U. S. Justice Department filed a motion today in federal court asking Judge William H. Skretny to transfer the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino case to the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) for further consideration. Earlier this month Judge Skretny ruled that the Senecas could not operate their Buffalo Creek Casino.

The Justice Department's motion asserts the federal government has a new interpretation of a key provision in the Indian gaming laws that could make the casino lawful.

In Judge Skretny's decision he confirmed the Buffalo Creek Casino is held in restricted fee status and therefore is subject to the sovereign control of the Seneca Nation. According to government attorneys, the Interior Department changed its interpretation of which lands can be used for Indian gaming last May and the change will go into effect August 25th. The new federal interpretation says "restricted fee lands", such as the Seneca's 9-acres in downtown Buffalo, can be used for casino gambling.

"I'm quite optimistic that the new rule makes a dramatic difference," said Laurence H. Tribe, the Seneca attorney. "Now that the new rule has been called to the judge's attention, it would be very difficult for him not to give it significant weight. I must say, that's a little bit of a mystery to me (why) it wasn't called to his attention by either party. Perhaps it's because the change doesn't take effect until Aug. 25."

The next court session with Judge Skretny is scheduled for August 21st. If he agrees to transfer the case to the NIGC, it will clearly be a major victory for the Seneca Nation.

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