SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Seneca Nation announced that it is releasing casino revenue sharing payments to New York State, after hours of deliberation this week, and after they say the state caused the restriction of accounts used for payroll and services.
“While the funds are being transferred, let me also send a message to New York. Don’t use the people of Western New York as pawns in your obvious desire to destroy the Seneca Nation,” Matthew Pagels president of the Seneca Nation, said in a video statement Tuesday.
The payment amounts to more than $564 million. The Mothers of the Nation don’t agree with the move to issue payment.
“We recognize that something needed to be done, but there were also other viable paths that the nation could of taken (such as) continue with litigation, moving to unfreeze those accounts,” said Leslie Logan Mothers of the Nation.
This ball started rolling back in February, shortly after the nation agreed to resume quarterly casino revenue sharing payments. After the agreement, the nation’s council passed a resolution to pause a payment to the state until the National Indian Gaming Commission completed a review of the payments.
In the meantime, the nation says, the state made a move on their bank accounts. Last week the state filed a motion in court seeking the ability to take a payment. The nation says this caused other accounts to become frozen which impacted payroll and other services.
“The state may think it’s appropriate to force an elder to go without diabetes medication, or a family already dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic to go without a paycheck. Our nation will not let that happen,” said Pagels in a video statement.
“The disputed gaming monies were in a blocked restricted escrow account. The state didn’t need to reach into all of the other nation’s accounts, thereby crippling our economy,” said Logan. “The money for the disputed amounts was in an escrow account. This was over reaching this was a hostile act.”
The current compact the nation has with the state expires in December of 2023. Looking forward, the Mothers of the Nation say they hope a new compact adhere to exclusivity.
“There’s a very significant question about the benefit being given to the Seneca Nation in the revenue sharing payment and the exclusivity. What is the value of exclusivity? We would argue that it’s none,” Logan said. “And so, if there’s a quiproquo required, if we give a revenue share of 25 percent, we need to get something in return. We’re not getting anything in return, we’re just forking over a lot of money.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted Tuesday night that the money will go toward the new Bills stadium.
“We’ve secured $564 million in payments owed to State & local governments,” Hochul wrote. “These funds were generated in Western New York & will support the State’s share of the new Buffalo Bills stadium. Remaining funds will go directly to Western New York communities.”
The governor’s office released the following statement regarding the Seneca Nation’s bank account restrictions:
“Since the beginning of her administration, Governor Hochul has been committed to resolving this issue and receiving the funds the State and local governments are owed. The courts have consistently ruled in the State’s favor, and the State has negotiated in good faith and met every hurdle. After the Nation once again failed to make payments under the terms of an amicable agreement, the State took action in the courts to turn over the owed funds. This only impacts the funds that are owed to the State. We look forward to swift resolution.” – Spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office