Seneca Nation claims arbitration panel’s ruling on casino compact goes against federal law

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SENECA NATION (WIVB) — The Seneca Nation has filed federal court action in order to try to move toward a resolution in the ongoing 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. says that with an arbitration panel’s ruling, payments will continue to be made to the state, although the 14 years have passed.

“The arbitration panel’s members, instead of interpreting the clear language of the Nation-State Compact, took it upon themselves to effectively and materially amend the agreed upon terms of the Compact, and they did so without regard for federal law and required procedures that govern both the Compact and the amendment process,” Armstrong, Sr. said.

The Seneca Nation has filed suit in federal court to have the arbitration panel’s decision vacated, claiming it is inconsistent with federal law.

“You cannot simply skip past the fact that the arbitration decision and amendment must concur with federal law, and, right now, the amendment and the law conflict with one another,” Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said. “The only other alternative to resolve the matter would be for the Nation and the State to come to some agreement and jointly submit it to the Department of Interior for review. The Nation is open to those discussions.”

“Unfortunately, unless the Governor is willing to sit down with the Seneca Nation leadership to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution that we could submit to the Department of Interior together, I am concerned that this litigation will continue for the foreseeable future, leaving the Seneca Nation and the local governments who benefit tremendously from our gaming operations in legal and financial limbo,” Armstrong continued.

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

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