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Cuomo Tells Niagara Falls No Dice On Budget Relief After Seneca Payment Stoppage

Niagara Falls NY at night
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is more than happy to leave Niagara Falls hanging. He recently announced the state will offer no relief for the casino city and tourist town in the wake of Seneca Nation’s payment stoppage on its four tribal casino properties.

Cuomo ignores Niagara’s pleas

Niagara Falls might be the town most hurt by the bitter, heated battle between Seneca leadership and Cuomo over the terms of the tribal casino compact. Cuomo has no sympathy though. His statement is laced with jabs at Niagara for expecting too much support from the state:

 “It’s not a fair request. They had the upside…they got paid when the state got paid. But why would I ever guarantee their loss? You know, maybe they want to make up the shortfall to me.”

Interstingly, Niagara Mayor Paul Dystra also invoked the word unfair earlier this year when discussing the state’s Seneca feud:

“It seems unfair to us, that we have to worry about our bond rating potentially being downgraded in the future when the dispute basically has nothing to do with us.”

Here is why Dystra arguably has a stronger point. For the past several months, Seneca representatives essentially begged Cuomo to meet with them and discuss some sort of compromise. Cuomo responded with radio silence.

Then, Cuomo publicly refused to meet with them. Moreover, he threatened to build another NY commercial casino in Niagara. Meanwhile, some legal experts claim the state does not have a strong case when it comes to compact language.

While Niagara begs for help, Cuomo giving aid to other NY cities

To add injury to Cuomo’s public insults, the Governor’s office recently announced it was helping another northern New York city’s economic development.

Earlier this month, Cuomo announced the state was giving upstate city Tonawanda $2.5 million to put towards economic development. He followed that up with an announcement another $10 million in state funds would go to Genessee County.

By comparison, the state has not aided Niagara in nearly 10 years. City Council member Kenny Tompkins expressed his frustration to local news outlets:

“I truly feel that the governor is letting Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca down by not stepping forward on this, and not doing it in a more timely manner or at least making us partially whole until the dispute is settled.”

Seneca Nation and the state are currently in the planning stages for binding arbitration. This is a process that could take several years. In fact, the last time the two groups went into binding arbitration, it took four years to reach a resolution.

Local governments too reliant on casino funds

This timetable is why Dyster is not the only person complaining that local governments are unfairly suffering. However, Dyster is arguably a cautionary tale is in own right.

Consider this, from the Niagara Falls Reporter:

“Mayor Dyster blew through nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in Seneca casino revenue since taking office nearly nine years ago. Highly paid consultants, engineering firms and city employees benefited from much of the largesse, rather than the city residents whose lives it was supposed to have  improved.

When former city controller Maria Brown publicly told him he was relying too much on the casino cash and using it inappropriately, the mayor fired her.”

Also per the Reporter, the state Comptroller says Niagara Falls will be completely broke by year’s end without state intervention. Befor Seneca stopped payments on its tribal casinos, they contributed roughly 15 percent of the city’s total operational budget.

With financial woes that dire, tax increases are on the horizon. Dyster currently has a proposal with a three percent hike for residents. Additionally, he wants a 14 percent increase for local businesses. Those numbers could go higher in the years to come as well.

Photo by Anna_Land / Shutterstock.com

Jessica Welman

About

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.