Friday, December 08, 2006

Casino still in Spitzer's court Governor-elect huddles with Cuomo after Supreme Court refuses to hear Oneidas' appeal

Times Union JAMES M. ODATO

ALBANY -- On Day One of the Spitzer administration, the new governor expects he'll still be grappling with whether the Oneida Indian Nation is operating a legal casino in Verona.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who will become governor Jan. 1, met Thursday with Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo at the Capitol, and neither could say what to do now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the Oneidas' appeal of state court rulings that the tribe has no valid gaming compact.

"Negotiations have been handled historically with the tribes by the governor's office," Spitzer said. "Obviously January 1st it will be squarely in my lap."
Cuomo remained mum on the issue.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the land on which Turning Stone Casino sits is taxable, non-sovereign territory and the gaming compact lacks the necessary legislative approval. Spitzer, however, declined to call the casino illegal.
"I'm of the opinion that casino has a rather tortured legal status," he said.
But, he said, the "legal context" of the casino changes "the nature of the negotiation" between the state and the tribe in attempts to settle a land claim by the Oneida.
Spitzer has been concerned about the Oneida and other tribes not collecting or charging taxes on cigarettes and motor fuel. He said those problems and land claims and casino matters form "a tangled knot."
Cuomo would not specify which cases are on his priority list, although he is inheriting more than 30,000 pending matters, most of them involving defending the state in suits. He said he has no plans to uproot employees at the 650-lawyer attorney general's office.
"Eliot has put together really an extraordinary team, a team that's produced great results for the state of New York. It's a team I intend to keep intact," Cuomo said.
He has met with the Spitzer's staff in New York City and Albany this week to discuss his plans.

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