A proposed revision to the 2013 Oneida Settlement Agreement (pdf), which would mean more money for Madison County, New York, has leaders of Madison counties and Oneida feuding.
If the bill is successful, Madison County would receive 25 percent of the revenue the state receives from slot machines of the Oneida Indian Nation in Oneida and Madison counties. Oneida County receives the same 25 percent, which in 2015 worked out to $14 million, and regardless of the outcome of the bill, would continue to receive that amount. That’s more money, however, then agreed to by Madison County when the settlement was signed in 2013 by the two counties, the Oneidas and the governor.
And, according to Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, it’s a breach of the settlement. Picente wrote letters to legislative leadership and the governor asking that the bill be dropped by the state. He said that long and complicated negotiations that satisfied many lawsuits and issues were involved in the settlement agreement, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Without written approval from all parties, it cannot be modified, said Picente.
Madison County agreed to take an $11 million, one-time, lump-sum payment, and $3.5 million a year, under the settlement. While for 19.25 years Oneida County received $2.5 million a year and a quarter of New York’s slot machine revenues from the Oneidas. Also part of the agreement was that up to 7,000 more acres of land could be purchased by the Oneidas. That land would be placed in trust by the federal government, which means it’s nontaxable, whereas Madison County’s agreement allowed for only 1,000 acres to be placed in trust without challenge. Picente said, Madison County wanted more, but didn’t want to give up more, while Oneida County paid more to get more.
That’s not the way Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker sees it though, pointing out in a news release on Friday that the situation isn’t the same as when the agreement was signed in 2013. Becker said in the news release that the opening of the Oneida’s Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango last year makes Madison a “host community.” And that as the bill notes, host communities generally receive payments to help cover services to casinos, infrastructure costs as well as other gambling operations. Becker said that the proposed legislation would “take nothing away from Oneida County and seek no further payments from the Oneida Indian Nation.”
Picente argued that because of the settlement agreement, the situation is not the same as in other counties. He said, Madison County was always aware that the Oneidas could open a casino there, but during negotiations it was made clear that they wanted to receive a fixed annual rate.