Seneca Nation faces fire over gas station and store at casino site

Leaders of the Seneca Nation and from Niagara Falls, New York, came together on August 28, 2015, for the tribe's announcement of a $40 million expansion of the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino. Photo from Facebook

Local officials and business leaders are speaking out against a gas station and convenience store at the site of the Seneca Nation off-reservation casino in Niagara Falls, New York.

The facility near the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino could open as early as June. Plans call for a 24-pump gas station and store that could sell tobacco products.

“Determining the future use and development of our sovereign lands is the right and responsibility of the Seneca Nation,” President Maurice A. John said in a press release last month. “This project is in keeping with those sovereign rights as recognized by the federal government. Furthermore, we believe it can be a catalyst for additional development along the Niagara Street corridor.”

But some believe non-Indian businesses will suffer if the tribe offers gasoline and tobacco products at lower prices and lower tax rates. Some also claim the Class III gaming compact contains language that limits what can occur at the off-reservation site.

"Many interpret this language to disallow a gas station on the Seneca land," the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce said in a statement quoted by the local media.

Some states have tried to address gas, tobacco and other non-gaming issues in compacts. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs has warned that such provisions are unenforceable under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

For the Seneca Nation specifically, the BIA in December 2002 said the tribe's compact is only effective to the extent it is "consistent" with IGRA.. The agreement is considered deemed approved.

The tribe owns 50 acres in Niagara Falls. The land is held in restricted fee status under the terms of the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990.

The tribe is spending $40 million to expand the casino.

Get the Story:
Niagara Falls businesses voice opposition to Seneca gas station near casino (The Buffalo News 3/15)
Niagara USA Chamber 'cannot support' Seneca Nation gas station plan (The Niagara Gazette 3/15)
Seneca Nation plans gas station, convenience store in Niagara Falls (The Buffalo News 2/17)
Seneca Nation to build Niagara Falls gas station, convenience store (Buffalo Business First 2/16)

Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming (December 9, 2002)

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Seneca Nation begins work on $40M gaming expansion project (01/14)
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Seneca Nation grows land holdings at off-reservation casino (09/14)

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