A long-standing legal dispute ended with a financial settlement this week between the government of New York and the Seneca First Nations. The two sides paid millions in revenues owed to cities across the state, while also agreeing that no new government operated casinos would be built in Western New York – which is also good news for Canada’s Niagara casinos.
The Seneca First Nations operate casinos on their lands, but were required to share slots revenue with communities in Western New York including Buffalo, Salamanca, and the US Niagara Falls. However in 2009, video lottery terminals were installed at racetracks on government owned land, and marketed as casinos which the First Nations argued violated a clause in their agreement stating they had exclusive rights to operate casinos in the region.
The dispute led to First Nations withholding casino revenue sharing payments, and became a complicated four-year legal battle. The state of New York also floated the idea of building new casinos along the Niagara Falls border to compete with the casinos on the other side of the Canadian border, which would provide financial compensation lost from the dispute with the Seneca tribe.
Cooler heads eventually prevailed in June, with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Seneca President Barry Snyder agreeing that revenue sharing would resume between the two sides, and the state of New York would protect Seneca casinos from future gambling expansion plans.
The two leaders travelled to the three communities this week, and handed out cheques for overdue revenue sharing funds. Niagara Falls received the largest share in the amount of $89 million, while Salamanca and Buffalo received cheques for $34.5 million and $15.5 million, respectively.
Governor Cuomo spoke at a press event in Salamanca after issuing the final cheque where he celebrated the end of the infighting, and looked forward to cooperating with the Seneca tribe in the future.
“For years the Seneca Nation and state government were mired in a disagreement over gaming revenues for local communities, but with today’s ceremony we are turning a new page in that narrative.”
Seneca President Snyder also thanked New York State for “recognizing the Seneca Nation’s gaming enterprises as an important component for continuation of our region’s growth and transformation.”