BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Seneca Nation of Indians has announced that it is requesting the federal Department of the Interior to review an arbitration panel’s recent ruling in favor of New York State in an ongoing dispute over lapsed casino payments.
The move means that host communities of Seneca casinos, hoping for a resumption of revenue sharing payments which stopped two years ago, may not see that money anytime soon.
The Agreement and Dispute
Under its gaming compact with the State of New York, the Seneca turn over to the state one-quarter of the revenue generated from slot machines at its three Western New York casinos.
The state then shares a quarter of that amount with the communities that those casinos are located in, which are Niagara falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca.
In 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he had extended the original compact through the year 2023, as part of a settlement of a previous dispute between the two parties.
However, in 2017, the Seneca stopped payment on the revenue sharing plan, because the state failed to include a clause that would require further payments after the original compact expired that year.
The Cuomo Administration, which apparently forgot to put the part about continuing to get paid when it negotiated the extension, insisted payments were still required.
In January an arbitration panel ruled in favor of the state, and in April determined the amount the Seneca owed was approximately $256 million.
The Senecas claim that by ruling as it did, the arbitration panel essentially and materially changed the terms of the compact.
Seneca’s Latest Move
In a statement, Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong said the panel “did so without regard for federal law and required procedures that govern both the Compact and the amendment process…Their ruling creates an obligation on behalf of the Seneca Nation that does not exist in the Compact as it is written, or as was reviewed and deemed approved by the Secretary of Interior in 2002. To allow this amendment to take effect without review by the Department of Interior would undermine the process by which the federal government carries out its trust responsibility to the Seneca Nation, and other sovereign Nations across the country.”