After several months with no progress, things got more serious after the tribe officially missed its first scheduled payment to the state for its tribal casinos. The lack of payment is not a surprise though. The heart of the issue between the state and the tribe is Seneca’s insistence it no longer owes any casino revenue to the state.
July 1 marks first official missed casino payment
The Seneca Nation declared it would no longer be issuing payments in March. However, July 1 is the date this stand off officially got real. Not only did Seneca issue no payment, the tribe also made it abundantly clear not to expect a check any time soon.
Seneca believes the contract between the tribe and the state ended after 14 years. The agreement began in 2002. Things seemed to be going well for both parties too. The state and the tribe mutually agreed to extend the agreement through 2023.
What they did not agree on was if the payments got extended with the contract too.
Shortly after the missed payment, Seneca Nation President Todd Gates issued a statement in the Niagara-Gazette.
“The Compact has been the same since 2002. In regard to payment, the Compact clearly outlines two obligations. First, there was a 14-year payment obligation between the Nation and the State. The Seneca Nation has completely fulfilled our obligation by providing the State more than $1.2 billion over the past 14 years. The fulfillment and natural end of our obligation in March should have come as no surprise to the State as it prepared its budget. Second, the Compact outlines the State’s obligation to compensate local communities. Per the Compact, those payments are, and have always been, the State’s obligation.”
Cuomo’s office allegedly never scheduled meeting?
Even with this hard stance, the tribe claims to be willing to talk with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials about a compromise. Gates says he spoke with Cuomo about a meeting in March, but that the Governor’s office never followed up to set a time.
That means for the past three months, there has been no progress towards securing future payments from Seneca, according to the tribe.
The Niagara-Gazette reports the mayor of Niagara, NY, Paul Dyster, says he is talking with the Governor’s office every day. Dyster claims Cuomo repeatedly sent letters to Seneca Nation and Gates with no response.
If the two groups are not willing to settle the matter over a meeting, the next step is arbitration. As Gates noted, the tribe’s contributions are a significant part of the New York state budget. More importantly, the local governments are especially reliant on those funds. The three New York casinos operated by Seneca Nation are in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca. The casinos collectively paid $100 million to the state last year.