|In a narrow vote, the Seneca Nation of Indians yesterday approved a deal with the State of New York that could bring Indian – run casinos to Niagara Falls and Buffalo.|
The vote on the Nation's Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations south of Buffalo was 1,077-976. The turnout rate for the vote was 45%.
Casino gambling is prohibited in New York State, aside from the Turning Stone Casino 30 miles east of Syracuse, which is operated by the Oneida Indian Nation. It opened in 1993.
The projected casino in Niagara Falls will compete with a successful Canadian casino across the border in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Casino Niagara opened in 1996 and has been a spur to the local economy, bringing jobs in real estate and hotel construction in the tourist area near the Falls.
The New York State legislature approved a casino deal with the Senecas last October that would give the state 18% of the profit in year one, rising to 25% after that.
'I am pleased the Seneca Nation has voted to move forward with this historic opportunity to bring new jobs and opportunities to the people of Western New York,' Governor George E. Pataki said.
Pataki has promised to sign a casino pact with the Senecas, but there are still some administrative hurdles to overcome before the Niagara Falls casino becomes a reality.
The agreement is subject to federal approval and there are also complications over land purchases and unionization. Gambling opponents on and off the Seneca reservations have promised to challenge the vote in court, and Donald Trump, who owns casinos in neighbouring New Jersey, is a longstanding opponent of gambling expansion in New York State.