Senecas are remaining holdout to reach a casino deal with NY state

May 24, 2013

The governor is optimistic Oneida and Madison Counties will go along with the deal he struck last week with the Oneida Indian Nation over casino gambling. The state also reached a deal with St. Regis Mohawk leaders this week. The Seneca Nation is the remaining holdout tribe still in dispute with the state over gambling

In the deal with the Oneida Nation, the tribe will share its gaming revenue with the state in order to gain exclusive rights over casino gambling in central New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it moves all parties to a more positive place.

"This would be significant revenue for the state, it wou lbe significant revenue for the two counties. It would end years of litigation. I think we worked very hard to put it in place. I would settle, I would move on with life. It's a good settlement for everyone. And I hope that's what they do," Cuomo said.

The deal will net Oneida County – where the tribe’s casino is -- more than $12 million a year. Neighboring Madison County will receive about three and-a-half million dollars a year.

The counties have to drop legal battles with the tribe over land claims. The heads of both counties support the deal. But it must pass the county legislatures.

Meanwhile Cuomo said negotiations with the Senecas continue.

"The Senecas in Western New York, we do not have an agreement. That compact is due to expire in 2016. We're continuing to talk. We have two out of three we've made agreements with and we're going ahead with the full proposal,"  said Cuomo. The governor has proposed three non-Indian operated casinos in New York state to help boost the economy, particularly in upstate.

The Senecas have withheld around $500 million in payments to the state and the host cities in which they operate since 2009.  The tribe alleges the state broke its 2002 compact when it allowed for slot machines at racetracks.  The missed payments have hit the municipalities hard, especially Niagara Falls.  

“All three compacts were basically dysfunctional in that they were in litigation and the tribes weren't making the payments, and it had been this way for many, many years. So one of the things I wanted to do is actually get these compacts operable so the tribes are making the payments they're supposed to make."

A referendum to allow for private gaming resorts could be on the statewide ballot as soon as November, should the proposal pass in Albany.