Senecas, Paterson clash over payments

October 7, 2010 Updated Oct 7, 2010 at 7:50 AM EDT

By Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink

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October 7, 2010 Updated Oct 7, 2010 at 7:50 AM EDT

Seneca Nation of Indians officials hope to meet with representatives from Gov. David Paterson's office to resolve a simmering issue over payments the tribe is withholding from New York.

The issue came to a head Wednesday when Peter Kiernan, counsel to Paterson, sent a certified letter to Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. warning it may revoke the gaming compact unless the Senecas pay $214.16 million owed to New York for exclusivity payments due last year and this year.

The Seneca Nation has withheld the payments claiming New York violated the 2001 compact by allowing "Moxie Mania" games at slot/racetrack operations at Batavia Downs and Fairgrounds Raceway in Hamburg.

Kiernan said he hoped to meet with Snyder and Seneca representatives in the next two weeks to resolve the issue.

"Accordingly, in the absence of a prompt resolution to this matter, the state is entitled to terminate the 'Nation-State Gaming Compact'," Kiernan warned in his letter.

The compact allows the Seneca Nation of Indians, through its Seneca Gaming Corp., to operate Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo and Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamanca. Combined the three casinos employ more than 4,000.

Snyder, in a prepared statement, said he remains baffled why New York allowed "Moxie Mania" games in Batavia and Hamburg but is glad to meet with Kiernan, Paterson and others. The Seneca Nation has been pushing for a meeting since January.

"I have no idea why the state violated our compact, and no idea why it took the governor's office nine months to agree to discuss the state's breach of the compact terms," Snyder said in his statement.

Snyder said he welcomes a meeting.

"We certainly look forward to hearing the explanation of why they violated our compact," Snyder said.

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