A decision by the Seneca Nation of Indians to end all of the casino payments the tribe makes to the state government will stop a $110 million revenue flow to Albany, effective next week.
The Nation says their decision is within the parameters of the 793-page compact signed in the summer of 2002 by then-Gov. George Pataki and Seneca President Cyrus M. Schindler Jr., according to The Buffalo News.
The Senecas say the language of the three-casino deal, which according to the tribe calls for a quarter of slot machine revenues to be shared with host communities in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca, is clear and states that state revenue sharing payments can be stopped after 14 years. The compact doesn’t expire until 2023 and includes a 21-year exclusivity arrangement for the tribe in a large area of Western New York. The Senecas are now in the 15th year of the compact and over the years have paid the state and local governments nearly $1.5 billion.
In a statement on Wednesday, Seneca President Todd Gates, said, “The Seneca Nation has followed the terms of our gaming compact since 2002 and we will continue to do so until it expires in 2023. As written in the compact, the Nation provided a share of our revenue to the state through the end of last year,’’ according to the report.
The announcement comes after the June 2013 memorandum of understanding signed by the Senecas and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resume payments to municipalities and the state amid a dispute over other existing gaming facilities in the region. The month prior, Cuomo announced similar deals with Oneida Indian Nation and Mohawk Tribe.
Seneca officials, meanwhile, have voiced their concerns regarding the growing state-sanctioned gambling upstate, including the del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County, which opened on February 1st and according to a report submitted to the New York State Gaming Commission, patrons spent upwards of $36 million on gaming there during the first six days of operation. Just how much the new casino is affecting Seneca casino operations is uncertain.
Gates indicated that some sort of arrangements could possibly be made with localities that will be affected by the drop in the revenue sharing payments they receive. He said, “Although the revenue share has ended, we remain committed to being good neighbors in the communities where we have gaming facilities and we look forward to working directly with them to continue the economic progress of Western New York,’’ according to the news agency.
The Cuomo administration, local government officials, and state lawmakers reportedly received word of the decision by the Seneca Nation on Wednesday, and that night, the Seneca’s claims were rejected by the Cuomo administration. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi reportedly said that under the original compact and the 2013 memorandum of understanding, that “it’s clear this payment structure remains in place.”
The announcement on Wednesday comes as Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are trying to finalize a 2017-18 state budget. According to the report, on a local level, it is expected that Niagara Falls will be hit the hardest, as the city receives upwards of $20 million in yearly revenue sharing payments from the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.