The Seneca Nation of Indians, which operates three casinos in Western New York, has the support of several legislators in its effort to make slot payments directly to the host municipalities, instead of sending them to Albany.
According to Indian Country Today, state Senators Cathy Young and George Maziarz have introduced legislation to allow local governments that host Indian casinos to receive payments directly, without the state acting as intermediary.
“What we’ve seen, unfortunately, from New York state, is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy and delays in getting the money out the door. That’s wrong, because that hurts the communities,” Young said.
Assemblymen Joseph Giglio and Mark J.F. Schroeder will introduce the bill in the assembly.
The Seneca tribal council voted in August to withhold slot revenue payments to the state, saying the government had violated the 2001 Class III compact by letting private businesses and state-run racinos operate slots within the Senecas’ exclusivity zone.
The nation says it notified the state of the violation, but got no response over the course of about seven months. When the tribe refused to pay a combined $200 million from 2009 and 2010, Governor David Paterson threatened to shut down the three casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca and Niagara Falls. Paterson’s administration also refused to consider the direct-payment plan.
The host communities, meanwhile, are struggling to pay their bills in the absence of significant anticipated income.
Meanwhile, the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which owns the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, made a similar argument when it recently ceased casino payments to the state. The tribe’s exclusivity agreement includes six counties. Chief Mark Garrow says the state permitted competition within that area, thus nullifying the compact.
Paterson’s administration continues to argue that all the payments are overdue and must be made to the state for redistribution.
“At its most basic level, the compact is an agreement between us and the tribe,” said Morgan W. Hook, spokesman for Paterson. “We give them exclusive rights and they pay us. If they’re not paying us, it’s a violation of the compact at its most basic level.”
The Mohawks have said that their move has nothing to do with the Senecas. Both tribes say the dispute is unrelated to Albany’s efforts to collect state taxes on cigarettes sold to non-natives on Indian reservations.