Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 16, 2013

State, Oneidas reach casino deal

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — The Oneida Indians on Thursday signed a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration and local governments that would guarantee them exclusive territory for their central New York casino in exchange for revenue payments to the state of around $50 million annually.

The broad deal not only helps Cuomo as he seeks to expand casino gambling, it also settles longstanding tax and land claim issues that have cast shadows over the Oneida Indian Nation's relationship with its upstate neighbors.

"This was one of the truly lingering, festering, negative situations in the state," Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a state Capitol signing ceremony. "To finally come to terms and work through all these years of emotion and years of disappointment was extraordinary."

Another lingering issue is the Seneca Nation of Indians and the state. Caught in the middle, the Falls is awaiting $60 million in casino cash payments. About $600 million is owed to the state.

In applauding Thursday's Oneida agreement, Mayor Paul Dyster said it reinforces his belief that a negotiated settlement was the preferred way to resolve the issue.

"Today's announcement confirms my long-standing and often-professed belief that if there is a way to settle that dispute at the bargaining table, Gov. Cuomo will find it,” Dyster said. "I am 100 percent behind the governor on this matter, because, I know that whatever course he follows, he has the interest of the people of the state of New York and the city of Niagara Falls at heart."

Under Thursday's deal, the Oneidas would be assured that no competing casino would be located across a broad swath of land in the middle of the state and the tribe would agree to give to the state 25 percent of the Turning Stone casino's net revenue from slots, expected to be around $50 million annually.

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