New York on Tuesday received $564 million in outstanding casino revenue payments from Seneca Nation.
The money will mostly go toward paying for the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
The tribe’s current gaming compact with the state expires in December 2023. But the state and the Seneca have endured a five-year legal battle over the agreement.
“Since the beginning of my administration, I have been committed to resolving this dispute and securing the funds that State and local governments are owed,” Hochul said in a statement. “The courts have consistently ruled in the State’s favor, yet no payments were made. Upon taking office, I sought to negotiate in good faith, and we have met every hurdle. I am pleased to have finally reached a resolution, and the full $564 million has been received by New York.”
Seneca Nation releases casino payments to New York
As noted, this resolution comes on the heels of a yearslong battle between the Seneca Nation and the state of New York.
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the Seneca — which operates three NY casinos in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo — owed the state $435 million.
The Senecas maintained that they didn’t owe the state any revenue-sharing payments after 2017.
The Seneca had received an exclusivity zone for casino gaming in western NY as part of their 2002 gaming compact with the state. New York froze the Seneca Nation’s bank accounts over the weekend.
“These funds were generated in Western New York, and I am directing the State’s share, which is more than $418 million, to the new Buffalo Bills stadium,” Hochul said in a statement.
“This will ensure the Bills remain in New York State and support 10,000 construction jobs. The remainder of the funds will go directly to the counties and cities of Western New York and be reinvested to support the local economy and communities.
“I thank President Pagels and the Nation leadership for fulfilling their commitment to the people of New York.”
Seneca Nation looks for updated NY gaming compact
The Seneca Nation Council approved the transfer of funds after the state froze the tribe’s accounts. That freeze came as part of an information subpoena issued by New York.
The transfer of $564 million will cover a period spanning Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2021.
“The Seneca Nation simply could not stand by while New York State intentionally attempted to hold the Seneca people and thousands of Western New Yorkers hostage,” Pagels said in a statement.
Pagels also intends to pursue a new gaming compact between the Seneca Nation and New York. The tribe said that state “has continually and dramatically changed the gaming landscape.” As a result, “those changes need to be reflected in a Compact that meets the standards set forth in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”
According to a spokesperson for Hochul, this resolution “only impacts the funds” owed to the state. The spokesperson added: “We look forward to swift resolution.”
Change to gaming landscape could include downstate NY casinos
The Seneca Nation alluded to the changing gaming landscape in the Empire State. That obviously includes the launch of legal NY online sports betting.
It also involves the potential authorization of licenses for downstate casinos in New York.
Hochul included the awarding of three licenses in her budget plan. The topic also appeared in the Senate one-house budget. The Assembly rejected the idea.
The state faces an April 1 deadline for the final budget.