A federal appeals court affirmed on Monday that the Seneca Nation must pay casino revenue to the state, the New York governor announced.
According to Gov. Cuomo, the Senecas owe $435 million to the state and, of that $435 million, $115 million will go to local governments, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
The decision is regarding a dispute over revenue from Seneca-owned casinos in Western New York, WGRZ reports. After several appeals and court hearings, Cuomo says it is time for the Senecas to pay the state what they owe.
In 2013, New York reached a landmark agreement with the Seneca Nation recognizing the exclusivity of the Seneca Casinos in Western New York.
"We have a decision in the ongoing trial," said Cuomo during the press conference. "The U.S. second circuit court of appeals again affirmed the need for the Seneca Nation to fulfill their obligations and pay what they owe in exchange for those gaming rights."
"The court's decision was clear, and after years of delay, multiple appeals, and multiple court losses it is high time the Seneca Nation follows the law and pays what they owe, and it is significant funding, especially for the communities involved, as well as the State," Cuomo added.
Budget Director Robert Mujica said: "It's about $435 million dollars that is owed to-date and is almost over $100 million of that is for local governments. The biggest counties in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Salamanca, Monroe and Erie County, but there are over a dozen local governments, county governments, and cities that get direct payments so it's $435 overall and $150 million directly to local governments, and the rest of the money goes to, mostly, education.
"The Seneca Nation of Indians argues that the arbitration panel majority manifestly disregarded the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the district court erred in confirming the award. Alternatively, the Nation argues that the district court erred in declining to refer the issues raised to the Department of the Interior pursuant to the primary jurisdiction doctrine. We agree with the district court that the dispute was a question of contractual interpretation reserved to the arbitral panel and referral was not necessary. Therefore, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court," court documents say.
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown released the following statement:
"The City of Buffalo is pleased that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the Decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York and found that the Seneca Nation is bound by the process it agreed to and to make the payments it committed to make to the State of New York - a significant portion of which are earmarked for the City of Buffalo. Thankfully, due to our favorable fiscal position going into this pandemic, brought about by years of responsible budgeting, we were able to weather the storm of this revenue owed being delayed, while we’ve enhanced services to keep our community safe and our workforce employed during this historically difficult time."
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino tells 7 Eyewitness News the city could use the funding to help get through what was a difficult year and it would help the ability to plan and ability to move some programs forward.
"We’ve had this money sort of off on the side of our balance sheet and now that it’s going to come in again, it’s certainly going to make some of our decision-making a little easier going forward," said Mayor Restaino. "There was no sense putting that money forward because we didn’t know what it was going to be, but now if this is really the final chapter, then we know that some of the programs we have had to put on the shelf, we can now move forward again because we’ll have some additional revenue."
The Seneca Nation of Indians released the following statement Monday evening:
"The Seneca Nation is reviewing today’s decision and discussing all of our options at this time."