NIAGARA FALLS – The Seneca Nation of Indians lost an arbitration case with New York State over gaming revenue payments.
The current gaming compact started in 2002 and runs until 2023, but the compact lists payments owed to the state for the first 14 years. During that time, the Seneca Nation said it paid the state $1.4 billion. The problem began when the compact did not include information on payments after 2016.
Seneca Nation President, Rickey Armstrong Sr., issued a statement regarding the finding.
“Despite the panel finding that the Compact, as written, simply does not address the topic of revenue share beyond Year 14, a majority of the panel members determined that an obligation exists to continue revenue share payments to the State,” Armstrong said.
Arbitration Panel Member Kevin Washburn, who voted with the Nation, said the finding changes the compact and is harmful to the Nation.
The state called on the Nation to step up and resume payments. A senior advisor for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Nation needs to end any further delays on payments.
“We’re thankful the arbitration panel held a fair hearing of the facts and ruled in favor of the state and the local communities that have been hurt by the Seneca Nation’s actions. It was clear to us that the Nation had an obligation to continue payments – period,” said Rich Azzopadi. “According to the Compact, this arbitration process was prescribed to resolve conflicts and now that it’s concluded, we ask that the Nation to cease any further delays, make the state and local communities whole, and resume payments.”
Armstrong said the Nation’s officials continue to believe the 14 years ended the Nation’s obligation to pay the state.
“It is the Seneca people who voted to permit our Nation to negotiate our compact and, like all government leaders, we must act every day in the people’s best interest. We created our gaming enterprise so that we could invest in the services that our people need, want and deserve. To that end, our casino operations have been transformational in helping the Seneca Nation serve our residents, from our youngest generations to our elders. None of that changes with this arbitration opinion,” he said.
Armstrong said the courts often do not base their findings on the laws, even their own.
“While we know we are right on the law, we also knew that making that argument to an arbitration panel gave no assurance of an opinion in our favor. As is often the case, the courts, and apparently arbitration panels, do not always decide cases on the law, even their law,” he said.
“We have prepared for this circumstance, and, now that the panel has issued its opinion, we will take the appropriate time to review and respond to the opinion, and move forward,” he said.