Federal Court rejects gaming claims against Turning Stone

VERONA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A federal court decision Thursday rejected Upstate Citizens for Equality Leaders David Vickers and Scott Peterman's decade-long challenges to the legality of gaming at Turning Stone, which was a significant part of their opposition to Oneida trust land.

The court has specifically ruled against allegations that the Oneida gaming compact is invalid and that gaming cannot occur on the Oneida reservation. In so ruling, the Court re-affirmed that the Oneida Nation's 300,000 acres reservation was never disestablished.

This decision is the sixth federal court ruling since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 City of Sherrill opinion to uphold the ongoing existence of the 300,000 acre Oneida reservation, and to reaffirm that the reservation never was disestablished since recognized in treaties entered between the United States and the Oneida Nation in the late 18th century.

"Although the Nation obviously is pleased by the outcome, we really are not surprised by it," said Mark Emery, director of media relations for the Oneida Nation. "It has been clear from the start of these cases, as demonstrated by the references in the federal court ruling to earlier decisions rejecting these same claims, that they never had merit." Emery further stated, "It is a shame that so much time and energy had to be expended addressing these allegations, but everyone has a right to their day in court. We are pleased the long saga over the legality of gaming at Turning Stone finally is over."

In addition to its rejection of the gaming challenges, the federal court granted the United States Department of Justice and Oneida Nation's motions to dismiss several of the other claims on the same grounds it rejected the same claims by Michael Hennessy and David Townsend earlier this week.

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