Court Rules Senecas Must Continue Compact Payments

Senecas claim compact ended 14 years ago

Tom Puckett
November 08, 2019 - 1:51 pm

Niagara Falls, NY (WBEN) A judge has ruled the Seneca Nation must continue making casino payments to New York State. The Senecas claim payments ended after 14 years back in 2016.

"A controlling majority of arbitrators recently held that the compact requires such payments. While this binding determination has widespread, directly inverse ramifications for the citizens of each party, the correctness of the decision is not now at issue. Rather, the exceedingly narrow question before this Court is whether the panel majority “manifestly disregarded” governing law in reaching its determination. Because this Court finds that it did not, the State’s cross-petition to confirm the arbitration award must be granted, and the Nation’s petition and motion to vacate the award must be denied," wrote the decision by Federal Magistrate William Skretny.

The Senecas had claimed their obligations were complete in 2016, but the state contends there was an automatic seven year renewal if there was no objection, and payments were to continue. 

Rich Appozardi, senior adviser to the governor, says "The court confirmed what we've said all along: the Seneca Nation needs to fulfill their obligations, make their neighbors and the state whole, and pay what they owe in exchange for their exclusive gaming rights. It is our hope that they end this charade, stop using the courts to delay, and pay what they owe."

The Senecas issued this statement: “The Nation has received the decision issued by the Court earlier today. Our Compact agreement is clear in what it says and in what it does not say. Despite that lack of ambiguity, a majority of an arbitration panel interpreted that a new, unwritten obligation exists for the Seneca Nation. Today, the Court has affirmed their interpretation. We understood the reality that the arbitration and court proceedings may not ultimately uphold the language of the Compact as written. Yet, it is our obligation to defend our agreements, so they are not compromised for the benefit of others. We will take the time to review today's decision and determine how the Nation will proceed.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “Today, the Court ruled in favor of New York State in the ongoing matter with the Seneca Nation of Indians regarding the sharing of revenue from gaming operations in Buffalo and other cities in New York State. This ruling confirms the consistent, long-standing belief we have held since the Seneca Nation stopped making payments: that the State and the City are owed this money and the Seneca Nation should pay it. We hope that today’s ruling ends the Seneca Nation’s attempts to delay payments owed to the State and the City, that we can resume a mutually beneficial working relationship with the Seneca Nation and that the millions of dollars owed to Buffalo and its residents are paid quickly, so that our City’s excellent financial position can no longer be questioned.”

Council President Darius Pridgen said, “I am excited to hear about the news that came from the US District Court and what that means for the city of Buffalo. I am grateful for my colleagues in government, from Governor Cuomo, to Buffalo’s state delegation, and my fellow members of the Common Council for their tireless work as we have come to this resolution. My hope going forward is that we can continue to have a positive working relationship with the Seneca Nation as a stakeholder and important part of our community.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster says, “As I have stated since the beginning, we have been confident all along that this matter would be brought to a fair resolution for the host municipalities involved and stand by the decision of the court. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his steadfast commitment to the City of Niagara Falls throughout the duration of this process. I am hopeful that the Seneca Nation of Indians, in light of the court’s decision, will
comply with the ruling in a timely fashion and look forward to the removal of this obstacle in the path of better future relations among the City, State of New York and the Seneca Nation of Indians.”

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