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Worrisome Seneca land deals Nation's casino leaders well advised to let Buffalo residents know their plans

Figuring out the meaning of Seneca Nation land transactions involving a proposed Buffalo casino may take time. But what needs to occur immediately is for the nation's leaders to unveil their intentions. The U.S. Department of the Interior should as well, working as it does for the American taxpayer.

A story Sunday by News national correspondent Jerry Zremski detailed land sales that could be innocent, imperialistic or anything in between. But since the Senecas -- in the person of President Barry E. Snyder Sr. -- aspire to being good neighbors in Buffalo, he'd be well advised to lean over the back fence and yack a bit about what the Senecas have in mind.

Right now, there are a lot of questions, and neither the Seneca Nation nor the Interior Department has offered answers. What is the nation doing with a $30 million, 15-year-old land-acquisition fund? How much land does it intend to buy for a Buffalo riverfront casino? Why, if the Senecas want to be good neighbors, is this all news to Buffalo's former mayor, a casino backer? And where is the Interior Department, which has to approve land sales?

Zremski's story elicited a lot of unreturned phone calls and nervous no comments. That in itself is worrisome. People with nothing to hide tend to discuss things with ease. We've said many times casino gambling is not good for Buffalo, but given the reality of the state's enabling compact with the Senecas, a riverfront site near HSBC Arena and a hoped-for Bass Pro store in the former Memorial Auditorium form an acceptable mix.

Should residents now worry and wonder even more? Do the Senecas plan to open a tax-free tobacco and gas sales operation near a Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino? Is a hotel in the works? Would housing for employees go up? These questions are especially relevant since Buffalo, a city that habitually lifts every possible rock looking for money, will lose tax revenue from private land the Senecas buy.

When Snyder in December announced the casino plan, he called it a homecoming for his people, one he wants to tie to Buffalo's own renaissance and redevelopment. That sounds laudable, but if this is a partnership of sorts, he should tell 1 million Western New Yorkers the nation's true intentions.

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