[toc]It appears New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally ready to talk with Seneca Nation about their casino compact. After canceling multiple meetings throughout the summer, Cuomo and his staff drew up paperwork for binding arbitration with the tribal nation.
Binding arbitration “no surprise” to Seneca Nation
This entire argument stems from wording in the compact which guarantees casino exclusivity in certain parts of upstate New York. Both parties agreed to extend the compact, but the language regarding the payments did not change. As a result, Seneca stopped payments earlier this year.
Seneca Nation was not surprised the state sought arbitration. Cuomo made it clear he does not intend to bargain with tribal leadership when he publicly threatened to open a commercial casino in Seneca territory after months of silence on the subject.
“After all, rather than take President Gates’ offer and willingness to meet in person, the governor repeatedly chose insults, attacks and threats through the media,’’ Seneca spokesman Philip Pantano said in a statement. Pantano is referring to Todd Gates, the president of Seneca Nation.
Pantano went on to point out Cuomo’s legal team failed to identify binding language in the compact that suggests payments continued beyond 2016.
“It was not the Seneca Nation’s preference to put this before an arbitration panel. The Nation was open to dialogue. Instead, we are now seeing a repeat of the same behavior as when the state previously violated the compact. The Seneca Nation is not intimidated. The Nation will commit its resources to defending the agreement we made, which the state now wishes to disavow.”
Seneca and NY state fought four years last time
The last time these two parties butted heads, it took four years to resolve. Seneca stopped payment in 2009 shortly after Cuomo signed a bill allowing for four new commercial casinos in upstate New York. To the tribes, this was a violation of their exclusivity agreement with the state.
The two parties finally settled the matter in 2013. In the interim, local governments had to do without the more than $630 million in payments and fees the tribe withheld.
Seneca eventually paid back $408 million of that money per the arbitration agreement.
This time around, local governments might not be able to exhibit the same level of patience. Numerous local lawmakers like Niagara Mayor Paul Dyster voiced their hope Cuomo and Seneca could resolve things as quickly as possible.
The possibility that is going to happen is quickly fading. Given history, arbitration is going to be a drawn-out process. Already there will likely be a fight over the location of the meetings. Cuomo’s team requested a site in New York City, even though the agreement stipulates the only site is Buffalo.
There are plenty of other things to argue over too. Per the agreement, each side gets to pick one person to serve on the arbitration panel. Then, collectively, they agree upon a third person. The process of selecting the panel can take months.
Moreover, even though the decision is binding, either party can appeal in federal court. If that happens, a resolution could be years away.
Photo by a katz / Shutterstock.com