Looming casino revenue loss could hit Niagara Falls hard

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) —  “If we spend it now and it’s not there and this thing lasts for quite some time it can cause a lot of problems,” said Andrew Touma, Niagara Falls City Councilman.

Touma is calling for a 90-day moratorium on casino revenue spending following the Seneca Nation’s announcement to discontinue payments to the state.

“We collect about $16 million a year and of that money around $11 or $12 million per year is used in the general budget. Just to cover expenses in the general budget and then we use other monies for capital projects,” said Touma.

Touma says the city depends on casinos funds for some policing, road repairs and other major projects. He says casino revenue accounts for about10 percent of the general budget each year. If that money suddenly goes away, it could mean trouble for the Cataract City.

“It becomes a serious problem because we average about $4 million per quarter that we receive from the Senecas so this is going to change the playing field of what we do and how we do it,” said Touma.

In a statement Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said  “It is not in the city’s best interest to negotiate this sensitive matter in the media, nor to facilitate speculative media reports that, even if well-intentioned, may help undermine the city’s position. As I have stated previously, it has been and continues to be our understanding that the payment structure put into place under the compact and 2013 MOU is to be continued. The City of Niagara Falls has received assurances from the State of New York that any assertions to the contrary are categorically incorrect. My administration looks forward to working with all parties to reach a solution.”

Councilman Touma says there’s no telling how long it could take to resolve, and though there is money in reserves that will eventually run out.

“We think we can probably get through the 2018 budget but after that a good portion of it will be depleted,” said Touma.

At this point there’s no time frame for how soon the state and the Seneca Nation could reach a resolution.

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