SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Members of the Seneca Nation community are speaking out after Governor Kathy Hochul announced she wants to use the casino revenue sharing funds to help pay for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.

“New York’s hostile and shameless greed was laid bare for the world to see yesterday. After intentionally and unnecessarily holding the Seneca people and thousands of Western New Yorkers and families hostage for several days by strangling various bank accounts held by the Seneca Nation and our businesses, Governor Hochul couldn’t contain her excitement to boast about using her Seneca ransom money for a new stadium,” said Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels in a statement Wednesday.

The Seneca Nation issued a payment of $564 million on Tuesday to the state, after the state put a freeze on its bank accounts over the weekend. The nation said it disabled their ability to conduct payroll and other services.

Then hours later, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she was going to use the payment to pay part of the tab on the new stadium project.

“She made a bigger gesture here. She was trying to flex some muscle here. I don’t know where the public outrage over this is, but there certainly should be some. The fact that there isn’t kind of makes you wonder how people view native people in general,” said local podcast host John Kane.

He hosts a podcast called ‘Let’s Talk Native’ covering Native American issues here and across the country.

“There’s a lot of gall there. The whole idea that she would essentially affect the livelihoods of thousands of people, not just employees, but vendors, and contractors, and service providers and the services here on Seneca territory. The idea that she would freeze that?” said Kane.

Leslie Logan Mothers of the Seneca Nation weighed in as well.

“It’s a real tough pill to swallow. Just coming off the fact that we went through this crushing, crippling freezing of our accounts. Where we were in a genuine state of paralysis. All of our economy shut down, the nation brought to its knees,” said Logan. “So, we make the payment and literally within hours we find that Kathy Hochul makes a statement. Frankly, we felt extorted, we felt extorted before we made the payments, we felt extorted before the freeze on the bank accounts.”

The governor’s office issued a statement on the matter:

“Since the beginning of my administration, I have been committed to resolving this dispute and securing the funds that State and local governments are owed. The courts have consistently ruled in the State’s favor, yet no payments were made. Upon taking office, I sought to negotiate in good faith, and we have met every hurdle. I am pleased to have finally reached a resolution, and the full $564 million has been received by New York.

“These funds were generated in Western New York, and I am directing the State’s share, which is more than $418 million, to the new Buffalo Bills stadium. This will ensure the Bills remain in New York State and support 10,000 construction jobs. The remainder of the funds will go directly to the counties and cities of Western New York and be reinvested to support the local economy and communities. 

“I thank President Pagels and the Nation leadership for fulfilling their commitment to the people of New York.”

With $418 million dollars of the casino revenue sharing funds heading to the state’s $600 million dollar tab for the new stadium, that leaves $182 million left for the state to pay.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office says the legislature is currently discussing how that will be paid.
Congressman Tom Suozzi, who’s also running for governor, weighs in.

“We have the highest taxes in America, in New York State we have a crime crisis going on and the governor releases this idea for the buffalo bills stadium and the Seneca idea four days before the budget is due. Let’s have a hearing, let’s discuss it. Let’s talk about the merits of this idea,” he said.

Here’s how the state says the Seneca Casino Revenue Sharing Payments Break Down

$418 million for the new stadium

$34.7 million for Buffalo

$38.9 million for Niagara Falls

$16.3 million for Salamanca and Cattaraugus County

$56.4 million for nonhost county aid

Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.