New York fuels casino revenue disagreement

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York // Credits: ABC News - Go.com
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York // Credits: ABC News - Go.com

The governor of the Empire State told the Senecas that a casino will be built in Niagara Falls if they don’t continue the revenue sharing payments.

US.- Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, and the Seneca Nation have been fighting over the share that casinos pay to hosting cities for several months now, but the problem has gotten worse as the governor’s administration threatened to open a casino in Niagara Falls if the tribe doesn’t continue with the casino revenue sharing agreement.

The tribe has shared more than US$1.5 billion over the last few years, and the decision to stop all casino payments to the state is hurting Albany’s economy, which receives approximately US$110 million a year and distributes the money to host communities. According to tribe officials, they’re acting upon the terms of the compact that they signed in 2012, which established that they had to share 25 percent of the slot machine revenues from the three casinos until the end of 2016.

“If they don’t fulfill their obligations to continue payments and to honor the compact, we are going to pursue putting an additional casino in Niagara Falls,” said a Cuomo official, as The Buffalo News cited.

Moreover, the Cuomo administration said that a meeting between the governor and the President of Seneca Nation Todd Gates is unlikely to happen anytime soon: they were supposed to meet earlier this month but the reunion was suspended. Spectrum News said that the Erie County district attorney’s office has been investigating a listening device discovered last year by the New York State Gaming Commission in an office at the Buffalo casino.

Alphonso David, Cuomo’s counsel, said: “Given the publicly reported and verified criminal investigation in the Seneca Nation that commenced approximately a year ago, it would be inappropriate for the governor to meet with the Seneca Nation until the matter is resolved by the Erie County District Attorney.”

The Seneca Nation responded to the threat and claimed that Cuomo is more worried about the public than figuring out a solution with Seneca leaders. “The governor has had five months to meet with President Gates, five months to articulate his position to President Gates and five months to engage in productive dialogue with President Gates. Instead, he has routinely chosen media statements and attacks,’’ commented Philip Pantano, spokesman for the Seneca Nation.

“We believe if they don’t pay, the compact is null and void. As a condition of that compact, they get exclusivity and if they don’t honor their end we’re going to explore how to put a casino in Niagara Falls,” said Cuomo’s side.

Pantano believes that the governor is turning to threats against the thousands of locals jobs the Seneca Nation’s gaming operations have created in Western New York. Another casino in Upstate New York would certainly saturate the market: Montreign Resort Casino in Sullivan County is supposed to open its doors in early 2018. The fourth casino is the priciest of the new commercial casinos in upstate New York, and will feature 14-16 table poker room. The other three commercial casinos in the state achieved underwhelming results in the past few months: The East coast state has only received US$50.2 million from the three casinos so far, and whilst the New York State Gaming Commission didn’t specify how much tax revenue was expected, the number was supposed to be significantly higher.

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