IRVING, N.Y. — The Seneca Nation Council reconvened Monday afternoon to vote on whether or not to make payments to New York State as part of the gaming compact agreement.
The council voted to approve the transfer of funds that would allow the Nation to make the $564,842,625.20 payment to the state. This amount covers the period of January 1, 2017-December 31, 2021.
The Seneca Nation president said over the weekend, a subpoena served by the state is impacting Seneca Nation and Seneca Gaming Corporation bank accounts, so they could not conduct banking transactions.
“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,” said Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels in a released statement. “The State may think it’s appropriate to force an Elder to go without their diabetes medication or a family, already dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic, to go without a paycheck. The Seneca Nation won’t let that happen. We will not let New York State strangle the people of Western New York.”
This is the latest move in the long-standing dispute between the two sides over hundreds of millions of dollars in casino revenue, which the state claims the Senecas still owe.
“New York State’s actions over the past few days were purposeful, malicious, and politically motivated," Pagels said in a statement released Sunday.
Following the vote to transfer the funds, President Pagels called on the state to begin compact discussions. The current gaming compact went into effect in December 2002. “Don’t use the people of Western New York as pawns in your obvious desire to destroy the Seneca Nation,” he said. “You have an obligation under federal law to negotiate a Compact with the Seneca Nation in good faith. Honor it.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement Tuesday evening.
"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. 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.
"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. 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."
The Mothers of the Seneca Nation released this statement Monday night:
Today the Seneca Nation Council voted to release $564 million in disputed gaming funds after being extorted by New York State. The State used strong-arm coercive tactics, forcing a freeze of the Nation’s bank accounts over the weekend. These overly aggressive actions were in violation of a federal court order, as the Seneca Nation was given until April 8th, 2022, in line with an established court schedule. Instead, Governor Hochul froze Seneca Nation accounts, beyond the disputed gaming funds in the restricted escrow account, and inflicted economic harm, crippling the Nation’s business operations.
The Mothers of the Seneca Nation fought tirelessly in fierce opposition against the prevailing tide of attacks by a Goliath in New York State in an effort to protect the assets of the Nation for the benefit of the people and our children’s future.
The Mothers of the Nation maintain that the most recent economic aggression by the state to paralyze the Nation’s economy would not have been tolerated by any other community or race of people.
The Mothers of the Nation remain dedicated to safeguarding the Nation, actively defending our sovereignty, and will continue to act as a constitutional check and balance in our governance.