Seneca Nation files federal lawsuit over state casino revenue-sharing compact

Jun 7, 2019

The Seneca Nation of Indians has received a setback from the U.S. Department of the Interior in its fight with New York State over casino revenue-sharing payments.

In April, a state arbitration panel decided 2-1 that the Seneca Nation must continue payments. The Senecas disagreed, saying the feds affirmed their 14-year obligation was fulfilled and that the panel's decision effectively amended the current compact with the state.

So the Senecas reached out to the Department of the Interior again for an opinion. The Interior notified the Senecas Wednesday that it needs more information before making a decision.

“While we regret that we must return the proposed Arbitration Award, we look forward to a new submission that includes a complete set of documents in compliance with the requirements of 25 C.F.R. Part 293,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Tahsuda stated in his letter.

"This action by the Department of the Interior unfortunately fails to resolve the ongoing disagreement between the State of New York and the Seneca Nation," said Nation President Rickey Armstrong Jr.

He maintains the state compact, as amended, "remains unenforceable without federal review."

It does not end there, however.

Credit Seneca Nation of Indians

Upon receiving the Interior's decision Wednesday, the Nation filed suit in federal court to have the state panel's ruling vacated. The Nation said the ruling is inconsistent with federal law and enforcement should not begin at least until the Secretary of Interior reviews the matter.

"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," said Armstrong. "The Nation is open to those discussions.”

Armstrong said without "a mutually agreeable resolution" that the nation and state can submit to the Department of Interior together, he foresees the litigation continuing, "leaving the Seneca Nation and the local governments who benefit tremendously from our gaming operations in legal and financial limbo.”