Senecas last holdout in casino negotiations with state

May 23, 2013

Over the past week, the State of New York has reached casino rights agreements with two Native American tribes: the Oneidas in Central New York and the Mohawks in the North Country. That leaves the Seneca Nation in Western New York as the last remaining tribe whose dispute with the state is still unresolved.

"We're continuing to talk. We have two out of three," Cuomo said.

The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in one of three facilities the tribe operates in Western New York.
Credit File photo

The Senecas operate three regional casinos, with facilities in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Salamanca. The tribe has been withholding revenue payments because it believes the state violated its 2002 gaming compact when it allowed for slot machines at racetracks. 

Speaking in Buffalo Wednesday, Governor Cuomo said he is working to resolve the disputes ahead of the possible legalization of non-Indian gaming in the state.

"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," Cuomo said.

A referendum to allow for private gaming resorts could be on the statewide ballot as soon as this November, should the proposal pass in Albany. Governor Cuomo has said he eventually wants to site three private casinos in upstate New York, though agreements with the tribes would allow them to retain their exclusive rights.

The Senecas have withheld around $500 million in payments to the state and the host cities in which they operate since 2009. The missed payments have hit the municipalities hard, especially Niagara Falls. Their compact with the state is due to expire in 2016.