Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 16, 2013

'Real work' beings for Falls officials in dealing with $89M in casino cash

Niagara Gazette — When Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder sat down in Niagara Falls to announce the end of the four-year gaming compact dispute between the parties last Thursday Mayor Paul Dyster, with a wide grin, described it as one of the best days of his life.

When reached by phone on Saturday Dyster struck a more sober and serious tone.

Dyster said the work of reconciling accounts and prioritizing needs in the city will be a slow and methodical process that will require hundreds of hours of work for city employees.

“Now the real work begins,” Dyster said.

Dyster’s administration and the city council have managed to avoid substantial tax hikes and layoffs while also maintaining most city services throughout the dispute, a task that was extremely difficult and was only accomplished through hard work and dedication from everyone in city hall, he said.

But the delivery of the $89 million that has been withheld since the Senecas stopped making payments in 2009 — they contend that the state violated the exclusivity clause in the 2002 gaming compact between the nation and the state — will mean that City Controller Maria Brown and her staff will now spend weeks figuring out exactly what accounts are owed how much and how the money will be distributed throughout those accounts.

Dyster compared that process to returning subway lines in New York City to service after they were flooded during Superstorm Sandy last fall, some of which will not be repaired for over a year.

“We’re shifting gears, going from the frantic work of trying to stop the city from going under to the frantic work of getting the machinery back up and running,” Dyster said. “You don’t just flip the switch and everything goes back to normal.”

The general fund and other accounts were borrowed from in anticipation of the withheld casino revenues and will now need to be replenished.

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