[toc]Some New York communities are starting to worry about the ongoing stalemate with Seneca Nation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and tribal leaders still have not met to discuss the fact Seneca ceased payments from its three New York casinos.
In the meantime, some communities are coming to terms with the ensuing loss of revenue. For some towns, it is an inconveniece. For others, it is a massive blow to their operational budgets.
Niagara, Buffalo feeling the squeeze the hardest
In March, Seneca announced no more payments from the casino were coming. In the tribe’s eyes, the compact with the state clearly stipulated payments ended after 14 years, even though the tribe and the state extended their agreement beyond that point.
The tribes issued their last payment in March. Over four month later, several communities used to getting payments from Seneca are starting to worry.
One place hit harder than the rest is Niagara Falls, home of Seneca Niagara Casino. The city previously relied on Seneca payments for over 15 percent of its operational budget.
Now that those payments are gone, Niagara Falls is struggling. In fact, just last week, Standard & Poors downgraded the city’s credit rating from “neutral” to “negative.” The lack of income from Seneca is the chief reason the rating changed. For Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster, his inability to fix the situation is frustrating.
“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,” he told local news outlet WGRZ.
Buffalo is another big city hurting the past few months. Between the city budget and the Erie County budget, the Buffalo area is dealing with more than $10 million less than usual. Like Niagara Falls, Buffalo officials are hoping Cuomo and the tribes will reach a solution sooner rather than later.
Seneca still open to meeting with Cuomo
Local lawmakers are eager for Cuomo and Seneca representatives to meet. Cuomo and Seneca representatives do not seem in any hurry though.
Seneca representative Phil Pantano acknowledged he hears these concerns when he spoke with The Buffalo News:
“At this point we can only tell our neighbors that the Nation continues to work with the Governor’s office to arrange a meeting between President Gates and Governor Cuomo. Now that the Nation’s compact payment obligation has ended, the Nation hopes to be able to work with the local communities on a new path forward.”
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopari was a little more aggressive in his statement to the paper. He plainly stated Cuomo believes the tribe is in the wrong. He also warned that legal action could be coming.
“As we’ve said throughout this ordeal, the Seneca Nation has an ongoing obligation to pay under the compact that grants them exclusivity rights across the entire region and reserve the right to pursue arbitration.”
Where does that leave Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and other communities desperate for a resolution? Not with many options, unfortunately. For now, all they cando is continually call Cuomo’s office and implore him to address the problem sooner rather than later.