Two New York tribes have halted casino payments to the state after they claim the state violated their gaming compacts by permitting Class III gaming at state racinos.
In September, the Seneca Tribal Council voted to stop making the payments. Tribal officials said the state invalidated its financial agreement with the tribe when it permitted other types of gaming in Western New York. That compact, the tribe said, guaranteed exclusive rights to gaming in the region.
The tribe owns casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca. A portion of the casino money goes through the state to the host communities, which are now suffering because of lost revenues.
In mid-October, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council announced that it will no longer share revenues from its Akwesasne Mohawk Casino with the state government of New York. That includes $4.9 million in revenue from the last quarter.
According to Chief Mark H. Garrow, the state “has failed to abide by the exclusivity provisions in the gaming compact. There is a specific provision in the compact that guarantees an area of exclusivity to the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.”
Garrow says the action is unrelated to the Seneca claims. Indeed, there are differences in the disagreements. In addition to the racetrack slots, the Senecas include certain video games, like Moxie Mania, that are played at upstate New York bars.
The Senecas have failed to pay about $200 million to the state, but said it would pay the monies directly to the three host communities: Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo. New York Governor David Paterson has rejected that compromise and given the Senecas to mid-November to ante up.
The Mohawks’ tribal compact gives them the exclusive right to install and operate slot machines in seven counties. The decision to withhold revenues is a blow to communities that rely on it to balance their budgets.
Morgan W. Hook, spokesman for Paterson, said the lapse in payments constitutes “an egregious material breach of the gaming compact. The state will now seek all remedies available under the compact including expedited arbitration in order to protect the state and local municipalities from losing this critical funding.”
Hook added last month that the Seneca tribe and administration representatives are still talking. “We are confident that the differences can be resolved,” he said.