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TRIBAL COUNCIL URGED TO WEIGH AN OFF-RESERVATION CASINO

One member of the Seneca Nation of Indians wants his financially beleaguered nation to consider an off-reservation high stakes gambling casino, and there may be some Council support for the idea.

Although several of the 16 tribal councilors have indicated they would consider the proposal, the resolution was not introduced at Tuesday's Tribal Council meeting, apparently for lack of majority support. Council meetings are open only to tribal members.

One councilor, who did not want to be identified, said the resolution "is not, by any means, dead. The latest (state sales) tax battle has more and more Senecas looking favorably at a casino under the right circumstances."

Martin E. Seneca Jr., a Washington, D.C. attorney, has sent a proposed resolution to tribal councilors calling for a referendum on "off-reservation casino gambling."

Seneca said the casino could be the answer to the Seneca Nation's "crying need for funds to provide services to the people, especially good, adequate housing."

"The nation has talked about the housing problem at length and how to solve it," Seneca said, "but you cannot do it with smoke and mirrors . . . The nation needs money to address the problems of housing, health, education and welfare of the people."

"Now," Seneca said, "the time may be right economically and politically for the people to rethink this casino issue. I would hope the Council will at least consider it."

However, Seneca President Michael Schindler "remains adamantly opposed to a casino," said Rosemary Patterson, spokeswoman for the Schindler administration.

Casino gambling was a major factor in the November 1996 Seneca presidential elections.

Ross L. John Sr., who was expected to be the winner, was handily defeated by Schindler, who ran on an anti-gambling platform.

Schindler, whose two-year term ends in November 1998, cannot seek re-election.

Seneca has been retained from time to time as legal counsel for the nation. He explained that his motivation for the resolution stems from a report from the nation's treasurer's office a couple of months ago that said the tribal general fund was down and noted many layoffs on the reservation and cutbacks in programs.

"The SNI (Seneca Nation of Indians) does not have a revenue base that is sufficient to cover the cost of government at a level that can adequately provide for the cost of the health, education and welfare of the people," Seneca said.

"If the people are opposed on religious or moral grounds to the nation being involved in casino gambling, then we have to respect that," Seneca continued. "But if they don't want a casino based on political or social environmental issues, I think we can work around those issues."

In April 1994, Senecas voted down casino gambling, 714-446.

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