NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — On Tuesday, Compact Arbitrators ruled in favor of New York State when it comes to casino revenue owed by the Seneca Nation of Indians.
The two sides have been at logger-heads for more than a year. It surrounds a 2002 Compact Agreement between the Senecas and the state that only required the Senecas to pay for the first 14 years of the deal, according to the Seneca Nation.
Niagara Falls and NYS officials were disputing that interpretation of the compact and believed they were still owed a portion of casino revenue.
The Seneca Nation issued the following response in relation to Tuesday's decision.
“The Panel’s new provision rewrites the Compact in a way that harms the Nation and provides an unjustified windfall to the State,” according to dissenting Arbitration Panel member Kevin Washburn.
“We continue to believe, as anyone who has read the Compact, that the Nation’s Compact payment obligation was fulfilled, and we believe we had an obligation to the Seneca people to defend the Compact as it was written and agreed upon,” President Armstrong continued. “It is the Seneca people who voted to permit our Nation to negotiate our Compact and, like all government leaders, we must act every day in the people’s best interest. We created our gaming enterprise so that we could invest in the services that our people need, want and deserve. To that end, our casino operations have been transformational in helping the Seneca Nation serve our residents, from our youngest generations to our elders. None of that changes with this arbitration opinion.”
“While we know we are right on the law, we also knew that making that argument to an arbitration panel gave no assurance of an opinion in our favor. As is often the case, the Courts, and apparently arbitration panels, do not always decide cases on the law, even their law,” President Armstrong added. “We have prepared for this circumstance, and, now that the panel has issued its opinion, we will take the appropriate time to review and respond to the opinion, and move forward.”
Since the Seneca Nation began its gaming operations in 2002, the Nation has sent more than $1 Billion in revenue share contributions to Albany. The Seneca Nation has also invested more than $1 Billion to develop its casino properties in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo. Today, the Nation’s casino operations employ more than 4,000 workers, making Seneca Gaming Corporation one of the largest private employers in Western New York.
Statement from Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to Governor Cuomo, Regarding Victory in Seneca Nation Arbitration:
"We're thankful the arbitration panel held a fair hearing of the facts and ruled in favor of the state and the local communities that have been hurt by the Seneca Nation's actions. It was clear to us that the Nation had an obligation to continue payments - period. According to the Compact, this arbitration process was prescribed to resolve conflicts and now that it's concluded, we ask that the Nation to cease any further delays, make the state and local communities whole, and resume payments."