Tribal leaders have often struck deals with the “gaming industry” that have greatly enriched themselves and their corporate partners but have just as often failed to deliver on promises of community empowerment.

In addition, the communities in which these facilities are located generally suffer when these casinos are targeted at local, lower-income residents, especially senior citizens.

These negatives and far more serious problems are facing the Buffalo area, because of the Seneca Gaming Compact that Governor George Pataki signed into law last year. The Buffalo News, however, which continues to lend generous editorial support to Pataki, appears to look the other way as some of the more unpleasant facts about the governor’s new “business partners” have come to light.

Seneca Niagara Financing Deal Appears To Be Illegal: NIGC The Seneca Tribal Council’s horrendous financing deal with Chinese Billionaire Lim Goh Tong’s Freemantle Ltd. may be illegal, according to a recent article published by The National Indian Gaming Commission has expressed doubts about the highly unusual deal’s legality. The article states, “According to the commission, the provisions give the lenders so much control that the deal constitutes a management contract, which would make the deal subject to a more thorough federal approval.” The deal, with a price tag of 29 percent interest, deprives members of the Seneca Nation from sharing profits from the casino.

A March 3 article in The News by Jerry Zremski quotes Richard Schiff, the commission’s general counsel, as saying, “The National Indian Gaming Regulatory Commission is doing a routine check to see if the loan qualifies as a management contract, which would subject it to further review and approval.” The News appears to have accepted the official line and has never followed up on the story.

Alt has obtained evidence that appears to cast further doubt on the legality of the Freemantle deal. A complete report will appear in our next issue.

Casino Buffalo: Resistance is Futile

The Buffalo News appears to be one hundred percent behind the Pataki-Giambra message that resistance to more Western New York casinos is futile.

An article by Barbara O’Brien about an August 4 anti-casino protest at Cheektowaga Town Hall noted that two casino opponents spoke in front of the Town Board meeting. It failed to mention that one of those speakers was a Seneca, Bobby Jones. Jones has uncovered evidence of the influence of organized crime upon the process of the Seneca Gaming Compact, buts his comments at the meeting went unrecorded.

Instead, the article actually focused on proposed changes to the Cheektowaga Conservation Advisory Council. Conveniently, the change would make it easier for Town Supervisor Dennis Gabryszak to help push a Seneca proposal to build a casino in Cheektowaga.

According to Jones, Gabryszak has avoided repeated requests for a meeting to discuss these serious problems. Last month, in an interview with Alt, Gabryszak pleaded ignorance about any criminal influence on the Seneca casinos, saying, “Once again, you know, you’ve got to try to get as much information as you can, especially on the matter that you just raised.”

Now that Gabryszak has been presented with this information, he doesn’t appear to be very willing to act upon it. In another Buffalo News article emphasizing the Seneca’s power over the process of a casino in the Buffalo area, SNI President Rickey Armstrong was quoted as saying, "We cannot and will not be bullied into a poor location that places the assets of the Seneca Nation at risk.”

In fact, Armstrong and his cohorts on the Tribal Council have shown a tremendous willingness to put the assets of the Senecas at grave risk in the past as evidenced by the shocking terms of their loan agreement for the Seneca Niagara casino and its dubious legality. The terms of the Seneca gaming compact with New York State have also opened a legal loophole that will allow taxation on the sale of cigarettes over the internet. Armstrong may be impervious to bullying, but, in the compact, he allowed a key aspect of Native American sovereignty to be bargained away.

Dan Herbeck, Author of American Terrorist, Ignores Evidence of Terrorism Dan Herbeck, who, with fellow News writer Lou Michel, co-authored American Terrorist, a book on Timothy McVeigh, has now filed several stories on the casino. But, strangely, he has ignored the criminal backgrounds of some of the key players in the Seneca Tribal Council’s bid for as many casinos as they can get in Western New York. Rather than review Councilor and Compact negotiator Arthur “Sugar” Montour’s background in cocaine and gun trafficking, or Barry Snyder Sr.’s continuing troubles with the EPA, Herbeck took recent demands for four new casinos in stride. “(SNI President Rickey) Armstrong could not be reached to comment Monday, and Tribal Council Chairman Barry Snyder declined to comment,” he wrote of the reticent SNI leaders.

Snyder’s Seneca Hawk gas station was, until recently, a prominent advertiser on The Buffalo News website. Herbeck also failed to address the issue of the SNI’s right to open up retail outlets for tax-free sales of cigarettes, gasoline, and other items, once the proverbial foot is in the door with the casino. He seems to take at face value assurances that this would not happen. Why the Tribal Council would not take advantage of this opportunity to make millions of dollars is another question that Herbeck fails to ask.

“Gabryszak said Armstrong seemed to understand,” Herbeck writes, “telling him that the real focus of the Senecas' interest in Cheektowaga is the idea of developing a casino.” He “seemed to understand”? Is that supposed to be a commitment?

What happens if they decide that they are interested in retail later? What’s to stop them from opening up shop? Again, Herbeck doesn’t ask.

Most shockingly, Herbeck has not investigated the Mohawk Warrior Society and its influence on the SNI Tribal Council. He doesn’t address the way that the group came to power: through terrorism. And he doesn’t discuss the group’s epic battles against the governments of the United States and Canada. Nor does he discuss the group’s connection to Libyan leader Moamar Ghadafyi.

Why members of a group that flew to Tripoli to chum around and who accepted cash from Col. Ghadafyi deserves the red carpet treatment from Herbeck is difficult to comprehend. But it does highlight a key weakness in his book about McVeigh, which was his failure to ask one simple question, “Why?”

The book’s “Just the facts, ma’am” style didn’t save any lives in Oklahoma. His articles on the corrupt drive to bring four more casinos to the area seems more like a press release than an exercise in investigative journalism. It fails to inform the reader of crucial facts and certainly won’t help protect the community from the criminal element associated with this supposedly unstoppable casino movement. The die may be cast, and it may be impossible to spare this community from the increasing influence of organized crime, but fate often spares the doomed in the face of courage. That would make a nice theme for Herbeck’s next book, provided he’s not already signed on to write another “what-if” post-mortem.

As opposition on the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations grows over the obvious rip off being perpetrated by the SNI Tribal Council, The News has done its part to keep things quiet. As the Sept. 9 Seneca referendum on an Allegany casino approaches, however, The News still has a chance to redeem itself and look under the hood of the pro-casino juggernaut before the engine boils over. By John McMahon

Native American casinos were developed as an imaginative way to skirt state laws against casino gambling. Proponents argued that they would greatly benefit impoverished Native American communities. In reality, the administration of these facilities has generally mirrored the growing division between the haves and have-nots in American society.