Governor Cuomo Tweaks Senecas

Says compact is void if Senecas don't pay

Richard Root
August 23, 2017 - 6:19 am

Seneca Niagara Casino Photo


Rochester, NY (WBEN) - The heat is being turned up in the dispute between the Seneca Nation and the State of New York.

This all started with the Senecas announcing earlier this year that they made the last casino revenue payment that they were obliged to under the compact with the state.

However, the state, along with Niagara Falls and Buffalo officials disagree.  Their position is that the Seneca's should share casino revenues for the duration of the compact.

Since then, there have been calls for meetings and negotiations to sort out the dispute. According to the Seneca's the state has not been available for negotiations.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo skipped a scheduled meeting with the Senecas saying he was advised not to go because of a so-called criminal investigation, which was leaked on Monday.

The leak was confirmed by the Erie County District Attorney's office.  They say the state Game Commission alleged the Senecas were eaves-dropping on them.

Dennis Vacco, attorney for the Senecas, said yesterday they did their own investigation and have determined there is nothing to the allegations.  

"Yesterday, most disturbingly, this investigation was leaked to the press, and given the timing we are reasonably sure that the source of this leak was the Governor’s office. Unfortunately, the inquiry is being used as a negotiation tactic against the Seneca Nation," said Vacco.

The Governor wasn't done laying into the Senecas.  Later in the day Tuesday, he told reporters in Rochester if the Senecas don't pay, then the agreement is voided. Which could lead to additional, non-Seneca casinos in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

"I have no doubt that we could get companies from around the world to bid on casinos right in Buffalo, Niagara Falls area," Cuomo  said.

That would violates the exclusivity part of the agreement with the Senecas, assuming the compact remains valid.

Seneca President Todd Gates says with expanded casino gaming in Canada, and some gaming in New York close to the border of the exclusivity area, their revenues have fallen over the past few years.

So, the Senecas would prefer to keep their lock on the casino market in Western New York.  It seems clear that the state believes this is the leverage they have in negotiating with the Senecas.

As of now, there's no word of a new meeting, or any resolution to the District Attorney's investigation.


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