Federal appeals court affirms Seneca Nation must pay casino revenue to New York State

Feeling lucky? The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino will reopen Thursday
Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 22, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State announced Monday a federal appeals court has affirmed the Seneca Nation must pay casino revenue to the state.

The decision on this case dates back to 2019 when A U.S. District Court judge ordered the Seneca Nation to pay New York State more than $255 million in casino revenues as part of its 2002 compact with the state.

In 2019 the district court found in favor of an arbitration panel, which ruled in April of 2019, that the Senecas had not fulfilled their share of the revenue sharing agreement.

Monday, the federal court of appeals affirmed the 2019 decision of the district court after the Seneca Nation appealed the decision.

"The Seneca Nation of Indians (the “Nation”) argues that the arbitration panel majority manifestly disregarded the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the district court erred in confirming the
award. Alternatively, the Nation argues that the district court erred in declining to refer the issues raised to the Department of the Interior pursuant to the primary jurisdiction doctrine. We agree with the district court that the dispute was a question of contractual interpretation reserved to the arbitral panel and referral was not necessary. Therefore, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court," court documents say.

New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said it is about $435 million that is owed.

7 Eyewitness News contacted the Seneca Nation for comment and received the following response:

“The Seneca Nation is reviewing today’s decision and discussing all of our options at this time.”

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown released the following statement:

"The City of Buffalo is pleased that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the Decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York and found that the Seneca Nation is bound by the process it agreed to and to make the payments it committed to make to the State of New York - a significant portion of which are earmarked for the City of Buffalo. Thankfully, due to our favorable fiscal position going into this pandemic, brought about by years of responsible budgeting, we were able to weather the storm of this revenue owed being delayed, while we’ve enhanced services to keep our community safe and our workforce employed during this historically difficult time."

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino tells 7 Eyewitness News the city could use the funding to help get through what was a difficult year and it would help the ability to plan and ability to move some programs forward.

“We’ve had this money sort of off on the side of our balance sheet and now that it’s going to come in again, it’s certainly going to make some of our decision making a little easier going forward,” said Mayor Restaino. "There was no sense putting that money forward because we didn’t know what it was going to be, but now if this is really the final chapter, then we know that some of the programs we have had to put on the shelf, we can now move forward again because we’ll have some additional revenue.”