The Seneca Nation owns and operates the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls, New York. Photo: Christine K

Seneca Nation told to continue sharing gaming revenues with New York

The Seneca Nation must continue to share gaming revenues with the state of New York after losing an arbitration proceeding.

As part of its Class III gaming compact, the tribe was required to share 25 percent of slot machine revenues with the state. Between 2002 and 2016, more than $1 billion went to the state.

The payments stopped in 2017, with the tribe arguing that the compact did not require additional payments. But the arbitration panel -- by a vote of 2 to 1 -- determined otherwise in a ruling announced on Tuesday.

“We continue to believe, as anyone who has read the compact, that the Nation’s compact payment obligation was fulfilled, and we believe we had an obligation to the Seneca people to defend the compact as it was written and agreed upon,” President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. said in a press release

The sole vote in favor of the tribe was cast by Kevin Washburn, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation who led the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the later years of the Obama administration. He said the arbitration panel essentially rewrote the terms of the agreement.

“The panel’s new provision rewrites the compact in a way that harms the Nation and provides an unjustified windfall to the state,” Washburn said in the tribe's press release.

Armstrong left open the possibility that the ruling will be appealed. But the state is calling on the tribe to resume payments immediately.

"We're thankful the arbitration panel held a fair hearing of the facts and ruled in favor of the state and the local communities that have been hurt by the Seneca Nation's actions," Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement. "It was clear to us that the Nation had an obligation to continue payments - period."

The state shared portions of the tribe's payment with local communities, some of which experienced budget shortfalls without the money.

According to The Buffalo News, the tribe is believed to owe about $200 million if the arbitration ruling remains intact.

Read More on the Story
Arbitration panel: Seneca Nation wrong to halt $100M in annual casino payments (The Buffalo News January 8, 2019)
Arbitration panel backs NYS over Seneca Nation in casino revenue dispute (Buffalo Business First January 8, 2018)
Panel rules Seneca Nation owes state casino payments (WXXI January 8, 2019)
Arbitration panel: Seneca Nation should share casino revenue (The Associated Press January 8, 2019)

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