Senecas, state reach Western NY gambling deal

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced an agreement Thursday between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians that resolves a multi-year dispute between the state and the nation.

“This was a long-running disagreement,” said Cuomo. “It was a legitimate disagreement from the Senecas’ point of view, and I always believed that they had a significant point. A lot of unnecessary hardship was endured by many parties. I want to thank (President Snyder) and the tribal council for the time that they took and the attention that they brought to the matter. I want to thank them for their professionalism and partnership in this endeavor.”

The agreement, which reconfirms the exclusivity of Seneca casino operations in the Western New York region, also saw the Seneca Nation agreeing to resume payments and make pro-rated repayments for past amounts that were in dispute.

“This agreement is a win-win-win; a win for the local governments of Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca, a win for the Seneca Nation whose exclusivity will be honored, and a win for all New Yorkers with hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the state now and for the future,” said Cuomo. “This agreement marks the beginning of a new chapter between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state, built on trust and mutual respect. I commend President Barry Snyder and the leadership of the nation for their hard work in helping reach this landmark agreement.”

This was the third dispute of this manner that has been resolved recently for New York state.

“I want to thank all of the people that were involved,” said Cuomo. “It’s easy to continue a dispute. It’s hard to stop and change the behavior. It’s hard to find a path of peace. It took open minds and gracious personalities to do that.”

Under the resolution, New York state and local governments will receive a total of $408 million in payments, as well as roughly $135 million annual from payments made by the Seneca Nation. In turn, Cuomo will support the exclusion of the Western New York region from bidding for any commercial gaming legislation. The state will also enforce the exclusivity zone for casino gaming, and a new dispute resolution process will be put in place to deal with any future disagreements. The video lottery facilities that are already in place at racetracks in Western New York will be allowed to continue operating.

“I’m very thankful that we were able to overcome the obstacles and come up with some sort of agreement,” said Barry Snyder, Seneca Nation president. “On behalf of the Seneca Nation, we appreciate the governor’s continued commitment to the economic revitalization of Western New York. I think one of the biggest downfalls between the two sovereigns is communication. Hopefully in the future we will sit down more regularly to talk about the issues that we may have.”

Several other area lawmakers were in attendance for the announcement, including state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I Olean, and state Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-C-I Gowanda. In a statement released by Young and Giglio, they said that they are “ecstatic with the news that the state and the Nation have reached a positive resolution,” saying that this result solves local concerns, making the city of Salamanca, the school district and Cattaraugus County whole again.

“The nation and its businesses are economic drivers for our region because they employ so many people and draw so many tourists,” they said. “Gov. Cuomo and the Seneca Nation, especially President Barry Snyder and the Tribal Council, are to be commended for their willingness to come together in the spirit of cooperation. By working together, we will make great strides towards economic growth and a brighter future.”

Earlier on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy applauded Cuomo and Snyder for engaging in this discussion due to the large impact that it could have on both the Western New York region, as well as the state as a whole.

“The greatest thing is, you have two leaders,” said Duffy. “You have the leader of New York state, and you have the leader of the Sovereign Nation, the Seneca Nation, meeting face-to-face. That is the good news right there. I think the impact is very promising. It really shows great leadership from Gov. Cuomo and President Snyder, that they’ve taken time to meet, and I think half the opportunity and half the challenge is having the opportunity to sit down face-to-face and really have these negotiations.”

For more information about Thursdays’ announcement, visit www.governor.ny.gov. A full press release from Gov. Cuomo’s office is available to the public.