In New York, the Seneca Nation of Indians has reportedly followed through with a threat to cease handing over one-quarter of its slot revenues to the state due to the alleged expiration of its gambling compact after Saturday saw the federally-recognized tribe withhold its first payment.
According to a report from the Niagara Gazette newspaper, the Seneca Nation of Indians operates the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino, Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino facilities via its Seneca Gaming Corporation enterprise and is not happy that the state recently sanctioned the opening of the nearby del Lago Resort and Casino, which is located between the upstate cities of Syracuse and Rochester.
The Buffalo News newspaper reported that the Seneca Nation of Indians signed its gambling compact in 2002 before transforming a derelict convention center in the city of Niagara Falls into its Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino. The deal reportedly set the initial slot revenue-sharing percentage for all three of the casinos at 18% before this went up to 25% after the eighth year but does not mention a rate after the 14th year.
“The compact is crystal clear on two important points,” read a statement from Todd Gates, President for the Seneca Nation of Indians. “First, the Seneca Nation [of Indians] had an obligation to share a portion of our slot machine revenues with New York state for the first 14 years of the compact. This language and the terms of this obligation have not changed in 15 years. The [Seneca Nation of Indians] faithfully honored and fulfilled our obligation, sending more than $1.2 billion to Albany since 2002. Per the compact, that obligation has now ended.”
The Buffalo News reported that the Seneca Nation of Indians’ gaming compact with the state is due to run until 2023 while the intervening time could see New York lose around $110 million a year in tax revenues while the other host municipalities of Buffalo and Salamanca could each be short by up to $22 million.
“The Seneca Nation [of Indians] has followed the terms of our gaming compact since 2002 and we will continue to do so until it expires in 2023,” read the statement from Gates. “As written in the compact, the [Seneca Nation of Indians] provided a share of our revenues to the state through the end of last year. 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.”
Andrew Touma from the Niagara Falls City Council told the Niagara Gazette that the whole matter is likely to head for “arbitration” unless the tribe and the state can “sit down and come to a resolution” while fellow councilman Kenny Tompkins reportedly declared that he had recently seen Gates and came away with the impression that he was “very firm about their stance”.
“I don’t see a payment forthcoming,” Tompkins told the Niagara Gazette
However, Gates reportedly stated that he had “directly” spoke to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo three months ago and informed the Democratic official that he “would accept his request to meet”.
“In the three months since that conversation, Governor Cuomo has not reached out to me directly nor has his office provided any dates for a possible meeting,” read the statement from Gates.