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The Senecas' stunning decision to halt casino projects

   Maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe not.

   One day after getting bad news in a federal court decision, the Seneca Nation's gambling corporation announced it is suspending $463 million in casino expansion projects in Buffalo and Salamanca.

   The Senecas are blaming the construction halt on "various factors, including challenging economic and capital market conditions." The statement  they issued this afternoon did not blame the halt on Tuesday's federal court decision from District Judge William M. Skretny.

   About 23 hours before today's announcement, Seneca Nation treasurer Kevin Seneca told reporters that construction on the casino projects was moving forward. He said the federal court battle was "frustrating." Seneca said the Buffalo casino would create at least 1,500 new jobs.

   Skretny's decision is viewed as a big win for Citizens For A Better Buffalo, the group that is leading the court fight against a Buffalo casino.

   The judge ruled that he still considers the Buffalo casino to be an illegal gambling operation, and he directed the National Indian Gaming Commission to move forward "forthwith" with enforcement actions. So far, the gaming commission has not indicated its plans.

   Some Western New Yorkers who enjoy casinos are angry at Citizens For A Better Buffalo and its main funder, the Wendt Foundation, for trying to stop Buffalo from getting a casino.

   "Most people I know want the casino, because of the jobs it is going to create, and because going to the casino would be a fun night out for people in downtown Buffalo," said Douglas Pagano, 53, a database technician from the Town of Tonawanda. "I think it's a small minority of people who are pushing this lawsuit. Why doesn't the Wendt Foundation spend the money it's spending on this lawsuit by helping Hunter's Hope or Studio Arena or some other worthy charity?"

   Richard Lippes, an attorney for Citizens For A Better Buffalo, has heard these criticisms before. Lippes said the anti-casino group is fighting the
casino because it believes the casino would hurt Buffalo more than it would help.

   "There's never been a vote taken on whether the public wants this casino," Lippes said.
"Anyone who says they know whether the public is in favor or not is just speculating."

   What speculations do you have on the future of Buffalo's casino?

   -- Dan Herbeck and Michael Beebe



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