NYS vs. Seneca Nation: Construction Money or Gaming Revenue?

August 2, 2012 Updated Aug 2, 2012 at 11:23 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

August 2, 2012 Updated Aug 2, 2012 at 11:23 PM EDT

CATTARAUGUS COUNTY (WKBW) The latest dispute between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State comes over bridges and money set aside for road construction. But in the end, it may turn out to be much more than a transportation issue.

Following a meeting of Seneca and local leaders, President Robert Odawi Porter made his stance clear; he believes New York State is withholding federal dollars that were earmarked for road construction on native land.

"This is retaliation. The State of New York is retaliating against the Seneca Nation, and all of the people affected by the Seneca Nation, and the non-natives who live in our area, because of its belligerence and its willingness to cheat us on gaming issues," Porter said.

The Senecas have not been paying the state any revenue from casino gaming for years, over a disagreement regarding it's gaming compact that gives the Senecas exclusive rights in Western New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia on Thursday, and addressed the dispute.

"The Senecas want the state to pay them. I want the Senecas to pay us. The senecas owe the state millions of dollars in gaming revenue for many years that they haven't paid. and I want the state to get the money that the state is entitled to," Cuomo said.

While the Seneca Nation and its neighbors are pushing for improvements to roads and aging bridges, state government wants it's gaming revenue so local communities like Niagara Falls and Salamanca can get their share. Two groups that want money each believe they are entitled to.

"The dollars held in dispute in regards to the gaming compact is a separate dispute," President Porter said.

"The gaming revenue that the Senecas owe the state far dwarfs any payment the state could ever make to the Senecas to repair a road," Governor Cuomo countered.

The Senecas have now called on the US Inspector General to investigate the state's funding practices in regard to construction funding, while Governor Cuomo says the two sides are "trying to work it out."