overnor Andree Cuomo proposed a state budget last week which includes an item of USD 450 M in revenue from Seneca Nation casino revenue sharing. The sum would be received by March 31, as it is counted as revenue in this fiscal year.
The Senecas, who operates three Western New York casinos in Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls, paid $1.4 billion in casino revenue sharing since 2002 but haven’t made any payments since 2017, when the Nation declared the gaming compact did not call for any payments to the state after the 14th year of the agreement.
Municipalities across Western New York receive a portion of the 25% local revenue sharing paid to the state by the Senecas, the Olean Times Herald reports. These municipalities, including the City of Salamanca, Salamanca Central School District and Cattaraugus County, have not received any payments since 2017.
The revenue sharing paid to the state represents a share of the slot machine profits. The original compact expires in 2023.
The state took the Nation to binding arbitration and won a 2-1 ruling in the case more than a year ago, but the Senecas have challenged the outcome in federal court in Buffalo. It remains unresolved.
A Seneca Nation spokesman said Thursday, “The Seneca Nation and the state remain in litigation regarding the State’s assertion that the Nation’s obligation to make payments goes beyond what was negotiated in our Compact.”
The spokesman added: “The Nation is and has been willing to discuss a resolution to litigation as well as negotiating a new Compact for 2023. Protecting the long-term viability of the thousands of jobs our gaming facilities provide in Western New York and the significant economic investments the Nation has made in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca over the past two decades is a priority for the Nation, and, we assume, for the state as well.”
Cuomo budget office spokesman Freeman Klopott said, “If these funds are not received, local governments that rely upon them will once again not receive these payments.”
He said the $450 million budget line represents the dollar amount from court filings and estimates by the state on the Seneca casinos’ performance during the pandemic.
Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles said he noted the $450 million line item in the state budget, but had no official notification.
“I have no idea how much of a windfall the county would get,” the county administrator said. “We haven’t received any casino revenue sharing for a number of years. We would anticipate a multi-year windfall if it’s paid off.”
The county’s casino revenue was three-tiered, Searles said. It depended on the amount of the local share split with the city and school district.
The first tier was an amount equal to the real property taxes lost when property in the city of Salamanca was purchased by an enrolled Seneca. The last time the county received revenue sharing from the state in 2016, that was around $1 million. Tier two was direct costs and tier three was directed toward economic development.
Searles noted the county had not included any revenue in the casino revenue sharing in its last several budgets because there was no way to tell if it would be received.
The county administrator will be glad when the issue is resolved, but he’s not ready to count on the windfall yet.