BUFFALO - The running dispute between the Seneca Nation and the Cuomo administration is headed to binding arbitration.
So-called 'demand for arbitration' paperwork was delivered to representatives of the Seneca Nation yesterday. In the 11-page document, the state calls for arbitration in what it describes as a Seneca's breech of the gaming compact with the state of New York.
Earlier this year, the Senecas made what it says was their final payment required by the agreement which gives the nation exclusive gaming rights over a large swath of western and central New York. The Senecas have claimed that when the compact was extended in December of last year, payments to the state were not also extended.
Under the agreement, the state has received a percent of slot-machine revenues. The total revenue going to the state is $1.4-million. A percentage of that is shared with local host communities where the Senecas' three casino's are located.
State paperwork repeats what Governor Cuomo has said publicly, that the Senecas violated the compact when it stopped making payments. Cuomo has even hinted that the state may license another casino in western New York if the Senecas do not resume payment.
A spokesman for the Senecas says two scheduled meetings between the governor and Seneca leadership were cancelled by Cuomo. When asked recently about this, Cuomo told reporters he didn't feel it was appropriate to meet because the Erie County District Attorney's office is investigating allegations of illegal eavesdropping by the Senecas on state gaming commission employees.
They issued this statement:
“The Seneca Nation was made aware today that New York State has decided to formally initiate the arbitration process prescribed in the gaming Compact. This comes as no surprise, given that Governor Cuomo consistently refused to meet with President Gates over the last several months. This follows the same course as the state’s rhetoric. After all, rather than take President Gates’ offer and willingness to meet in person, the Governor repeatedly chose insults, attacks and threats through the media. Now, after canceling scheduled meetings with President Gates on July 27 and August 22, the Governor has decided to proceed with arbitration.
The state has a demonstrated history of Compact violations. Now, after threatening to once again violate the Compact, it is abundantly clear that the Governor has no interest in engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the Seneca Nation’s leadership. A review of the State’s Arbitration Demand, released to the media, is telling. The state cannot point to any language, nor provide any history that supports their interpretation of the revenue sharing provisions. That is because the Compact language clearly spells out a 14-year obligation, which the Seneca Nation has fulfilled.
It was not the Seneca Nation’s preference to put this before an arbitration panel. The Nation was open to dialogue. Instead, we are now seeing a repeat of the same behavior as when the state previously violated the Compact. The Seneca Nation is not intimidated. The Nation will commit its resources to defending the agreement we made, which the state now wishes to disavow.
The Seneca Nation is very confident that, once the facts are before an arbitration panel, that the State of New York will be required to adhere to the terms of the Compact that they negotiated and signed.”
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