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Casino foes seek expedited decision on legality

Opponents of the Seneca Nation's Buffalo casino filed more court papers Thursday, and they plan to ask a federal judge to make an expedited decision declaring the casino operation illegal.

A federal agency's decision that allowed a temporary casino to open July 3 was "inconsistent" with laws dealing with Indian gambling, the Citizens for a Better Buffalo and other casino opponents said in court papers.

"We'll be asking Judge [William M.] Skretny to expedite this case as much as possible and set up a time for legal arguments on summary judgment," said Joseph M. Finnerty, lead attorney for casino opponents, who have spent more than $1 million in their legal fight.

Finnerty's clients want Skretny to issue a permanent injunction that would shut down the temporary casino and prevent the Seneca Nation from opening a permanent one here.

Despite the National Indian Gaming Commission's July 2 decision allowing the casino to open, Skretny still must decide on the basic issue of whether land the Senecas bought near HSBC Arena is sovereign Indian land, Finnerty said. If it is not, he said, it cannot be legally used for gambling.

The Seneca Nation and the federal government say the casino should stay open. Philip N. Hogan, chairman of the gaming commission, gave the Senecas permission to open the casino. Hogan said he believes that the Buffalo casino meets the legal requirements for off-reservation Indian casinos.

The Senecas intend to replace their small temporary casino, containing 124 slot machines, with a much larger, permanent one that would employ 1,000 to 1,500 people.

The temporary Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino on Michigan Avenue has been busy since its opening. "So far, it's been remarkable," said Philip J. Pantano, spokesman for the tribe's gambling company.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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