New York Governor Threatens Seneca Nation With New Niagara Falls Casino
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has levied a threat against the Seneca Nation in light of their refusal to make casino revenue sharing payments. Cuomo threatened to grant a permit to build a new, non-Native American gambling facility near the location of the tribe’s existing casino in downtown Niagara Falls.
Earlier this year, the Seneca Nation vowed to stop payment of about $110 million per year to the state of New York. The state shares those proceeds with 16 Western New York counties. The tribe is claiming that the terms of the original agreement reached in 2002 does not mention the requirement to make payments beyond the 14th year of the deal, which expired at the end of 2016.
New Casino Threat
A Cuomo official, speaking anonymously, told The Buffalo News on Monday, “If they don’t fulfill their obligations to continue payments and to honor the compact, we are going to pursue putting an additional casino in Niagara Falls.”
A meeting between Governor Cuomo and the Seneca president is unlikely to take place anytime soon, which has led to the current impasse in negotiations. So, Cuomo is taking the opportunity to try and force the Seneca Nation’s hands.
A potential meeting between the two sides could be complicated thanks to a current ongoing investigation into the Seneca Nation. About a year ago, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office began an investigation into the Seneca Nation after a listening device was discovered by New York State Gaming Commission officials in one of the offices the state leases from the Senecas in the Buffalo casino. Governor Cuomo believes it would be inappropriate to meet with the Senecas until the investigation has concluded.
Seneca President Todd Gates has a different account, as he says Governor Cuomo canceled a meeting scheduled in Niagara Falls for Tuesday.
About the current issue, Gates said, “Let me be clear, the allegations against the Seneca Gaming Authority employee have as much to do with the compact issue as the many ongoing investigations into Gov. Cuomo’s economic development programs. Let’s not distract from, nor try to politicize, the fact that Gov. Cuomo has now canceled two meetings with the Seneca Nation regarding an issue that is important to the people he was elected to represent.”
Gates also claimed that Cuomo showed “blatant disregard” for the deal the two sides reached back in 2002. In response to the threat to build a new casino in Niagara Falls, the Seneca Nation accused Cuomo of grandstanding in public rather than taking the time to sit down and negotiate.
Not the First Dispute
Cuomo made this threat once before. He said the same thing back in 2013 when the Seneca Nation had been withholding hundreds of millions in revenue sharing proceeds from three casinos in the area. They eventually resolved the matter after the state agreed to place more strict enforcement on a massive geographic exclusivity zone for the Senecas to use without new casino competition.
The tribe’s most successful casino is located in Niagara Falls, which is part of what makes Cuomo’s threats somewhat viable. Cuomo has canceled at least one previously scheduled meeting with Gates already, which has caused progress on the dispute to be slow.
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