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Old 11-01-2005, 09:06 PM   #1
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Tribe Pushing Sennett Casino

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FROM: THE AUBURN CITIZEN ONLINE NEWSPAPER
_http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2005/10/30/news/local_news/news03.txt_
(http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/20...ews/news03.txt)
Tribe Pushing Sennett Casino
By The Citizen staff report
Sunday, October 30, 2005 12:09 AM EDT
The Seneca-Cayuga tribe of Oklahoma is once again looking to build a casino
in Cayuga County, this time proposing a $200 million resort complex on Route
34 in the town of Sennett.

The tribe outlined details of its proposal in a letter sent to Cayuga County
Legislature Chairman Herb Marshall dated Sept. 22. The letter and a
memorandum, copies of which The Citizen has obtained, detail plans that include a
120,000-square-foot casino, five-star hotel and spa, 18-hole golf course and
gourmet restaurants.

The tribe said it would pay property and sales taxes, drop its land claim,
make $5 million in additional annual payments to municipalities and employ
1,100 people at an average salary of $45,000 per year.

Marshall, who said the tribe has often made informal proposals for projects,
downplayed the latest plans. He said the likelihood of that project
materializing was low, in large part because the tribe would need to secure a gaming
compact from the state. Such a compact would likely receive massive
resistance, especially from groups opposed to New York dealing with an out-of-state
tribe.

“They have any number of times talked about trying to have a casino in the
town of Sennett,” Marshall said Saturday. “But a big question is ‘Do they
have any chance at all of even having a casino?'”

Marshall said there are no active talks about the proposed project taking
place. If the tribe made a formal proposal, Marshall said the review process
would involve a large number of officials, and the state would have to take a
leading role.
The Seneca-Cayugas' letter outlines annual payments it would make to four
government entities: $3 million to Cayuga County, $1 million to Sennett,
$250,000 to the Weedsport Central School District and $750,000 to the city of
Auburn.

The money for Auburn would cover costs the city may incur, such as increased
demand for water, said Mayor Tim Lattimore. He said as long as there are no
sovereignty issues associated with the property, he looks favorably on the
proposed casino and resort.

“It would be the largest project that this county has ever seen,” he said. “
It's good economic development news that something this sizable would come
to Cayuga County. I hope all the different municipalities can be cooperative
and look at this deal and see the benefits of it.”

Earlier this month, Spicer told the Saugerties Times in Ulster County that
the tribe was “speaking with individuals in Cayuga County” about a casino
project. The tribe, based in Miami, Okla., has eyed several places for building
a casino in New York, including the town of Aurelius, where it owns land.

After years of opposition in Aurelius, the Seneca-Cayugas first publicly
discussed a Sennett casino in the summer of 2004. It then shifted those plans to
Sullivan County in the Catskills as part of a land claim settlement
agreement reached with the state. As that deal began to fizzle, the tribe began
looking into a casino in Ulster County, but resistance there has been strong.

That brings the tribe back to Cayuga County.

In the Sept. 22 letter to Marshall, Seneca-Cayua Chief Paul Spicer made his
pitch for county support of the project.

“The Finger Lakes is one of the great recreational areas in America,” he
wrote. “We are hopeful we will be able to enhance that in the years to come.”

The Seneca-Cayugas are working on this latest proposal with Caywil of New
York LLC, an entity formed by Thomas C. Wilmot, the chairman of shopping mall
developer Wilmorite. Caywil was the original partner in the Seneca-Cayugas
effort to open a gaming facility in Aurelius. The tribe said Caywill is working
to purchase between 300 and 400 acres on Route 34 in the town of Sennett,
about three to four miles south of the New York State Thruway exit.

The latest push by the Seneca-Cayugas comes after two significant court
decisions went against American Indian nations. A March U.S. Supreme Court ruling
in the city of Sherrill vs. Oneida Indian Nation case said tribes do not
have automatic sovereignty over lands they purchase on the open market, and are
therefore responsible for paying taxes. Then a June decision by the U.S.
Second Circuit Court of Appeals effectively dismissed the Seneca-Cayugas' land
claim.

Amid those developments, Spicer became the tribe's new chief. He brought a
contingent to Cayuga County in August to make a $70,000 payment to satisfy
back taxes on land it owns, and he expressed a desire to work with local
officials on economic development projects. While the tribe did not rule out
gambling as part of those efforts, it also talked about “light industry” projects.

The tribe also expressed a desire to form a task force with local officials,
but Marshall said such a group has not formed.

Cayuga County legislator George Fearon, R-Springport, said the county should
not support the Seneca-Cayuga proposal because any land claim settlement
should also include the Cayuga Nation.

“It doesn't really solve the problem because it's just one of the tribes,”
Fearon said.
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