Court rules Seneca Nation must pay casino compact funding

Western New York

SENECA NATION (WIVB) — A federal court has ruled that the Seneca Nation is obligated to pay casino compact funding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi, released a statement on Friday afternoon.

“The court confirmed what we’ve said all along: the Seneca Nation needs to fulfill their obligations, make their neighbors and the state whole, and pay what they owe in exchange for their exclusive gaming rights. It is our hope that they end this charade, stop using the courts to delay, and pay what they owe.”

Earlier this year, the Seneca Nation filed federal court action in order to try to move toward a resolution in the disagreements involving a compact with New York State.

In 2002, the state and the Seneca Nation signed a gaming compact set to expire in 2023. The compact details how much money the Seneca Nation was to give to the state in the agreement’s first 14 years.

In those years, Seneca officials say $1.4 billion was given to the state. Some of that money goes back to places like Buffalo and Niagara Falls, which have Seneca casinos.

What the compact did not specify, is how much the state is to be given after the first 14 years.

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. released a statement following the decision:

“The Nation has received the decision issued by the Court earlier today. Our Compact agreement is clear in what it says and in what it does not say. Despite that lack of ambiguity, a majority of an arbitration panel interpreted that a new, unwritten obligation exists for the Seneca Nation. Today, the Court has affirmed their interpretation. We understood the reality that the arbitration and court proceedings may not ultimately uphold the language of the Compact as written. Yet, it is our obligation to defend our agreements, so they are not compromised for the benefit of others. We will take the time to review today’s decision and determine how the Nation will proceed.”

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr.

The Seneca Nation says its casino operations employ more than 4,000 people.

“As I have stated since the beginning, we have been confident all along that this matter would be brought to a fair resolution for the host municipalities involved and stand by the decision of the court,” Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said. “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his steadfast commitment to the City of Niagara Falls throughout the duration of this process. I am hopeful that the Seneca Nation of Indians, in light of the court’s decision, will comply with the ruling in a timely fashion and look forward to the removal of this obstacle in the path of better future relations among the City, State of New York and the Seneca Nation of Indians.”

Mayor Brown and Common Council President Darius Pridgen released a joint statement on the Seneca Nation gaming impact:

“Today, the Court ruled in favor of New York State in the ongoing matter with the Seneca Nation of Indians regarding the sharing of revenue from gaming operations in Buffalo and other cities in New York State. This ruling confirms the consistent, long-standing belief we have held since the Seneca Nation stopped making payments: that the State and the City are owed this money and the Seneca Nation should pay it. We hope that today’s ruling ends the Seneca Nation’s attempts to delay payments owed to the State and the City, that we can resume our usual good relations with the Seneca Nation and that the millions of dollars owed to Buffalo and its residents are paid quickly, so that our City’s excellent financial position can no longer be questioned.”

Mayor Byron Brown

“I am excited to hear about the news that came from the US District Court and what that means for the city of Buffalo. I am grateful for my colleagues in government, from Governor Cuomo, to Buffalo’s state delegation, and my fellow members of the Common Council for their tireless work as we have come to this resolution. My hope going forward is that we can continue to have a positive working relationship with the Seneca Nation as a stakeholder and important part of our community.”

Common Council President Darius Pridgen

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