SALAMANCA, NY (WKBW) - The Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder along with the Seneca Nation Council met with area leaders Friday to discuss New York State's threat to close down the Indian casinos.
In August, the Seneca Nation Council voted to withhold “exclusivity payments” to the state after repeated requests to meet with Governor Paterson went unanswered. The Nation has proposed making direct payments to local municipalities that are typically received from the State’s share.
Governor Paterson's office sent a letter to Seneca Nation leaders earlier this week, warning that if the Seneca's do not pay $214 million in owed slot machine fees, then the state has the right to shut down the casinos.
The Seneca's argue that it is the state's violation of the gaming compact that has led Seneca leaders to withhold payments.
“The state’s violation of the gaming compact, combined with their unwillingness to provide concrete answers and discuss our very real concerns prompted us to withhold the exclusivity payments. We took this action to convey a strong message to the state, but we remain concerned about the effect on our neighbors and would like to find alternative solutions,” said Seneca Nation Council Chair Richard Nephew.
In a letter sent to Governor Paterson's office Friday, Seneca Nation leaders propose a solution that involves making direct payments to the local governments while receiving 'credit' from the state for such payments.
“This is an untenable situation that the state has placed us in. But we believe that by working collaboratively with our local partners and neighbors, we can find solutions that are mutually beneficial and supportive. Sitting down at the table, allowing parties to be heard, engaging in dialogue is the first step. This is precisely what we have been asking of the State," said Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder.
When asked for a response, spokesman for Governor Paterson Morgan Hook told Eyewitness News, "We will not negotiate in the press."