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Seneca Nation calls for federal review of Compact amendment

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Posted at 1:35 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 13:35:36-04

SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Just last week an arbitration panel ruled the Seneca Nation of Indians had to pay more than $255 million in casino revenue to cities the casinos are located in, now the Seneca Nation is requesting a federal review of a Compact amendment.

Citing the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the Seneca Nation is calling on the United States Department of the Interior to review a Compact amendment created by an arbitration panel.

The Compact dates back to 2002 and in January, according to the Seneca Nation, only required the Senecas to pay for the first 14 years of the deal. Niagara Falls and NYS officials were disputing that interpretation of the Compact and believed they were still owed a portion of casino revenue, which led to the arbitration panel's ruling.

The arbitration panel’s members, instead of interpreting the clear language of the Nation-State Compact, took it upon themselves to effectively and materially amend the agreed upon terms of the Compact, and they did so without regard for federal law and required procedures that govern both the Compact and the amendment process. Their ruling creates an obligation on behalf of the Seneca Nation that does not exist in the Compact as it is written, or as was reviewed and deemed approved by the Secretary of Interior in 2002. To allow this amendment to take effect without review by the Department of Interior would undermine the process by which the federal government carries out its trust responsibility to the Seneca Nation, and other sovereign Nations across the country. The arbitration panel gave New York State, without the benefit of a negotiated agreement, or a review by the Department of Interior, more than a billion dollars in additional payments that they did not bargain for,” President Armstrong added. We are obligated by federal law to submit such an amendment for review by the Department of Interior.
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr.

The Seneca Nation says pursuant to the federal IGRA, all amendments to Compacts must be reviewed and approved by the Secretary of Interior before they may be enforced.

The Secretary of Interior would then make a determination whether the amendment is consistent with the IGRA and trust obligations of the United States, according to the Senecas.

According to the Senecas, the Compact contains no provision requiring payments during years 15-21, but the arbitration panel created additional obligations that were never reviewed or approved by the Department of Interior. Which amends the Nation-State Compact and triggers the legal requirement to request review.

The Seneca Nation and the Seneca people deserve to have our agreements with other governments honored and protected, despite repeated and ongoing attempts to ignore, violate, and, in this case, blatantly change the agreements we have made. By exercising our right to request that the Department review the amendment, the Nation leadership is fulfilling our obligation to the Seneca people to always defend our sovereignty and the sanctity of our agreements.
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr.