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Seneca Nation and New York Dispute Comes To A Close

The long and tedious saga between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state has potentially ended.

Last week, a three-person arbitration panel for the second time ordered the Seneca’s to pay $255 million in lapsed casino revenue-sharing payments.

According to The Buffalo News, the same two-panel members who sided with the state in January said the tribe must also continue their quarterly revenue payments to the state.

The panel members siding with the state are Henry Gutman, a New York City lawyer, and William Bassler, a professional arbitrator. Bassler was selected by the other two panel members.

The total amount due covers the period from Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018, and stands at $255,877,747.44.

Other legal possibilities in the Seneca case

The third member, appointed by the tribe, Kevin Washburn, did not sign off on the order issued Wednesday, April 10.

Washburn is the University of Iowa law school dean and member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Seneca Nation President, Rickey Armstrong Sr., told reporters that the nation is reviewing the decision.

Sources, according to The Buffalo News, have said the Senaca’s are looking at optional legal proceedings that could prevent the dispute from coming to an end, yet again.

“They had said they would honor the arbitration decision, and they signed a contract saying they would honor the arbitration decision. What does that mean? Apparently not much,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters.

Flashback to 2016 and budget shortfalls

The Seneca’s made revenue payments to the state from their three NY casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagra Falls. But, at the end of 2016, revenue payments stopped. The tribe claimed its compact with the state did not stipulate payments beyond 2016. Thus began the long-disputed revenue-sharing payments saga.

Under the state-tribal compact, if disputes cannot be handled by direct talks, an arbitration panel will give a binding decision. The three host cities, which rely heavily on the tribal gaming revenue, have been patiently waiting for a final ruling since January.

As of January 16, 2019, all three cities are facing a combined budget shortage of $38.3 million.

  • Buffalo – $17 million
  • Niagra Falls – $12.3 million
  • Salamanca – $9 million

Don’t forget about sports betting

Many had speculated the complex web New York was tangled in, prevented the state gaming commission from developing sports betting regulations.

We know now, that is not the case.

Rules and regulations to govern sports betting are currently in a 60-day public comment period. If the comment period goes as expected, sports betting will be up and running at the states four commercial casinos in time for the 2019 NFL season.

Nicholaus Garcia

About

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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