The long and drawn out dispute between the state of New York and the Seneca Nation of Indians could be coming to a conclusion after reports indicated that both sides are making progress towards an agreement that would put the squabbling between the two sides to bed.
Seneca President Barry Snyder Sr. met with members of Cuomo’s administration for several hours in Albany last Wednesday to discuss the issues between the state and the tribe and seek a resolution that would be acceptable to both parties. Though no official details have been given regarding any deals, sources told The Buffalo News that there’s growing sentiment that the two sides have progressed with their negotiations to the point where an agreement could be in the horizon.
The dispute between the two stemmed from the Senecas refusing to pay the state $600 million in revenues from its casinos in Buffalo, Salamanca, and Niagara Falls. The tribe argued that it wasn’t obligated to pay the state anything after pointing to Albany’s introduction of slot machines in its racinos effectively broke the tribe’s exclusivity rights. So the tribe withheld the $600 million that it owed the state as part of the latter’s portion of the gambling revenues in the three aforementioned casinos.
That, of course, didn’t sit too well with the governor, who in turn, shot back at the tribe, issuing a thinly-veiled warning to the Seneca Nation by threatening to negate the latter’s exclusivity franchise in Western New York if it didn’t iron out all of its issues with the state by placing a new casino in Niagara Falls, land that falls under the tribe’s exclusivity rights.
If the two sides do come to a deal, it would put an end to a dispute that has dragged on longer than anybody expected. But nothing has been set in stone and the direction of the wind could still change if the Seneca council doesn’t approve the deal Snyder brings back to it. Compounding the trickiness of a deal being struck is the belief among Seneca tribe members that it could win an ongoing binding arbitration case against the state that will protect its exclusivity deal under a 2002 casino compact with the state while also allowing it to keep most of the $600 million it stopped sending the state’s way since 2009.
A deal with the Senecas could position Cuomo to build up his plans of expanding casinos in New York. The governor recently struck similar deals with the St. Regis Mohawk and Oneida tribes and if he had his way, adding the Seneca tribe to that list would clear some major hurdles in its attempt to gain support for his casino expansion plans.