Cuomo Offers $12 Million To Aid City Hurt By Missed Seneca Payments

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on October 1, 2018 - Last Updated on July 13, 2022

One council member in Niagara Falls believes Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s offer to help the city close a multi-million-dollar budget gap is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

“I’m glad he is giving us this money but it’s stickily an election year gimmick,” Kenny Tompkins, a member of Niagara Falls city council, said to PlayNY.

“The bottom line is, [Cuomo] should have been giving us this money all along because the issue is between the state and the casino,” Tompkins said.

Backstory in Niagara Falls

Cuomo told reporters last week the state will provide $12.3 million to Niagara to help close an extensive budget gap. This is a reversal from his previous insistence that no financial help would be provided.

Under a 2002 agreement, the Seneca Nation of Indians made revenue payments to the state from its three NY casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls.

The state then shared a portion of the proceeds with each of the host cities.

The tribe operates Niagara Resort and Casino, Buffalo Creek Casino and Allegany Resort and Casino in Salamanca.

However, in 2016, the tribe stopped making much-needed revenue payments after the state approved the expansion of non-Indian owned, Las Vegas-style casinos in four upstate locations.

Seneca Nation President Todd Gates told The Buffalo News, “The compact is crystal clear on our 14-year payment obligations, and we believe that will be upheld through the compact’s binding arbitration.”

Resolving the issue

Both Tompkins and Mayor Paul Dyster agree that the city’s budget problems are far from over.

“This is a stop gap – it kicks the can to next year,” Tompkins said.

Dyster told reporters difficult decisions still need to be made.

“Our budget shortfall is about $13.2 million,” Tompkins said. “We need to do our job and make the cuts we need and streamline government.”

2019 and beyond

Cuomo and the Seneca tribe remain in arbitration. The governor anticipates a conclusion by the end of the year.

“I’m not so sure he will be so generous next year – it’s not an election year,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said part of the blame falls on the city for allowing over $13 million to become part of the budget.

“That’s on us,” he said. “When this money dried up that’s when panic set in.”

It remains a mystery on if Cuomo plans on helping the city out next year should arbitration be unsuccessful. Cuomo’s administration could not be reached for comment.

“This issue is not between the cities. [Cuomo] is leaving Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara hanging in the wind while he takes his time doing arbitration,” Tompkins said.

“But he had no choice [to help the city] – we would have either been unprotected with public safety or bankrupt,” he said.

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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.

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