- The Seneca Nation of Indians has withheld more than $500 million in payments to New York State.
- The Nation is willing to pay the money if they can renegotiate their gaming compact.
- N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul has agreed to the terms, and negotiations will commence soon.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The Seneca Nation of Indians stopped paying the state of New York revenue-sharing money that it withheld due to a dispute over legal interpretations.
Now, the Nation is willing to pay the state that money, but only in exchange for a renegotiated gaming compact.
The amount of money in question here is around $500 million, and the Seneca Nation claims that they were not obligated to continue payments after 2016.
Since that time, they have not paid, and while court cases have ruled in favor of the State, nothing has changed.
Seneca Nation Offers $500M - For A Price
Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels described the offer to resume payments in exchange for a new compact as a win-win for both the tribe and the state.
“Rather than pursue continued legal action, we believe we can now best address our concerns in a Compact with greater clarity on our obligations, and, as important, the obligations New York State has to the Nation in return,” Pagels said. “Furthermore, we want to see the momentum generated by our investments and operations continue to grow, and we look forward to building on our strong relationships with our neighbors in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo. Now is the time to move forward.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul was more brief:
“I am pleased to have reached an agreement for the resumption of payments on terms that serve both the State and the Nation and that benefit Western New York communities, and I look forward to beginning discussions toward a new compact,” Hochul said.
This seems to be a more conciliatory tone than that struck by Hochul’s predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, whose aides accused the Seneca Nation of “using the courts to delay” in an effort to avoid “pay[ing] what they owe”.
Is This A Move To Safe Face?
The dispute between the Nation and the State of New York has been ongoing since 2016, and multiple federal appeals courts have ruled in favor of the State.
In addition, a 2019 ruling via an arbitration panel also went the State’s way.
One major issue that is sure to come up is that the Seneca Nation, along with the Oneidas and the Akwesasne Mohawks, pay New York State 25% of their slots and VLT earnings - notably less than what New York’s commercial casinos pay.
Perhaps the Seneca Nation sees this as an opportunity to end the dispute in a way that does not involve full capitulation.
New York’s online gambling fans will have to wait and see what the outcome of this dispute is going to be.