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Casino compact battle ramps up as Seneca Nation votes to release casino payments

"This isn't a level playing field"
buffalo casino.jpg
Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 12:13:00-04

The Seneca Nation of Indians says all of its bank accounts at KeyBank, for both the Nation and Seneca Gaming Corporation, are frozen because of what it calls, the “aggressive overreach” by New York State.

It is an ongoing battle as the state waits for the Nation to make casino revenue payments for the three Western New York casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca.

“It just kind of shows the complete imbalance of power — this isn't a level playing field. This isn't a negotiation of good faith,” remarked John Kane, radio host.

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John Kane, radio host & hosts a podcast called Let’s Talk Native in Zoom interview.

Kane, who is a Mohawk member, lives in the Seneca’s Cattaraugus Territory.

Kane is a radio talk show host and also hosts a podcast called Let’s Talk Native following the casino compact battle.

He says the state's action is an “overreach” and “act of aggression."

“To be clear. — the Seneca Nation has said all along — ‘we simply want the Interior Department to review the status of the revenue sharing agreement’ because they never did review the compact as it relates to this seven-year extension,” Kane explained.

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Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo.

Here’s a Casino Gaming Compact time:

  • Casino Gaming Compact was first issued in 2002 between the Seneca Nation & New York State
  • 25% of slot revenues would be shared with the state to be distributed to host casino cities, Buffalo, Niagara Falls & Salamanca
  • In 2019, an arbitrator decided each host city should get an additional $100-million each, that’s when the Seneca’s began withholding the payments of about $450-million

Since the start of the compact, the Seneca’s distributed nearly $1.4 billion dollars.

The latest action by the state is an about-face from January when the state and Seneca's reached an agreement to begin new gaming compact talks.

That deal included a promise by the Seneca's to resume casino revenue payments to the state.

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John Kane in Zoom interview.

“What changed from January until now?” Buckley asked Kane.

“Well, what changed immediately is once they told the Seneca's — the Seneca people they were doing it — they were met with extreme opposition,” replied Kane.

Mothers of the Seneca Nation are opposed to the Seneca's making payments.

Leslie Logan is a founding member of the group.

Leslie Logan, founding member, Mothers of the Seneca Nation.

But Logan tells 7 New the state's actions don't make sense since $450-million of casino revenues remain in an escrow account.

“And this order was made to freeze all of the Nation's accounts, which has had a crippling effect, a devastating blow to the entirety of the Seneca Nation's economy and the livelihood of the Seneca people,” Logon noted. “There is going to be a lot of people — I think more so, who are in the Seneca's corner saying ‘hold on a second’ 4,000 employees of the Seneca Gaming Corporation not being paid — that's a problem."

But despite the banking account issue, a Seneca spokesman tells 7 News all three Seneca casinos remain in operation.

The Seneca Nation Council met Monday morning but tabled a resolution to begin making casino payments. 7 News learned late Monday afternoon the Seneca Nation Council reconvened a special session and voted in favor of releasing the casino payments.

Outside Buffalo casino.

KeyBank says it is not able to comment on the situation.

7 News reached out to the governor's office for a response, but have yet to receive a comment.