Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 16, 2013

State, Oneidas reach casino deal

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — The Oneidas agreed to place no more than 25,000 acres of land into trust, effectively settling the tribe's longstanding land claims. The Oneidas would charge prices for cigarettes comparable with non-Indian merchants, who have complained they can't compete with the Oneida's untaxed goods. The tribe said it already does that with gasoline sales.

Local governments would see income from a number of sources. For instance, the state would distribute a quarter of the revenue it receives from the tribe to Oneida County, where Turning Stone is located. Neighboring Madison County would get a one-time payment of $11 million for past tax claims.'

The counties agreed to drop ongoing litigation against the Oneidas over the tribe's application to put land into trust. "This is a success not just for the Oneida people, it's a win for central New York and a win for the state," Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said.

The Oneida leader announced the deal along with Cuomo, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker.

Cuomo drove hard for the deal as he works on his proposal to bring three Las Vegas casinos to upstate New York at yet-to-be-identified locations. A public referendum to change New York's constitution to allow non-Indian casinos could be on the ballot as early as November. The deal announced Thursday effectively sidelines the Oneidas as a potential deep-pocketed foe of expansion.

Cuomo said the deal will stand whether or not voters approve expanded gambling, though it still needs approval by state and county legislatures, the Department of the Interior and the state attorney general.

The agreement comes a week after Cuomo said Indian casinos run by the Oneidas, Senecas and Mohawks could face competition in their backyards if talks with tribes fail to yield results.

The governor on Thursday did not indicate any progress in talks with the Seneca Nation of Indians or the St. Regis Mohawks. Those tribes have been withholding casino payments to the state because they claim it violated their compacts by allowing gambling in their exclusive territories.

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Do you think cigarette sales to non-Native American customers should be taxed on reservations?

Yes. Items should be taxed like they are everywhere else.
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